The Trossfrau Sock II

After I made my first pair of socks (read more here), a friend posted pictures of a a pair of short linen socks found at Regensburg Historisches Museum in Germany. The design on these is more simple then my first guess, with what seems to be just two sets of pieces and I’ve finally got the chance to try it out.

1) The pattern is made about the same way as I made the first one; I taped my foot and draw the lines where I wanted the seam. I then cut it out in fabric and pinned it to my foot and adjusted it until it looked right. EDIT: I belive I over worked the pattern; the incut around the ankle can just be cut straight, the shape will come naturally when you roll the hem. (I’ll upload a new pattern example when my sewing room is unpacked after the move)

2) start by stitch the heel seam, and then fell the seam

3) I finished the edges around the opening before attach the sole

4) attach the sole and fell the seam, it’s easier to get around the heel and toe with tiny stitches

A pair took around a day to make a pair, including patterning. The sources of when and by whom it was used is a bit hard to find;

– the original is dated to 15th c, but I don’t have any information about the size of the sock so I can’t say if it’s male/female/social class etc

– There is a couple of woodcuts which shows a low cut sock off both trossfraus and peasants women, I haven’t had the opportunity to research if it was used by men as well, but it seems plausible.

– The inventory of the Swedish court in the early 16th c, mentions socks with lesser amount fabric than ordinary socks. No reference to whom it was intended for.


Petronilla of London (photograper of the original located in Regensburg Historisches Museum)

Cecilia Aneer, Skrädderi för kungligt bruk Tillverkning av kläder vid det svenska hovet ca 1600-1635, 2009

Rogg, M, Landsknechte und Reisläufer: Bilder vom Soldaten; ein stand in der Kunst des 16. jahrhunderts, 2002

Fabric Covered Tellerbarret

An inventory in the Textiler Hausrat mention a fabric covered straw hat, and I decided to try the technique by doing a specific kind of Tellerbarret. First book of fashion also mention hats covered in fabric, but doesn’t give any clues of what the base might be made of. Probably not all hats of this type have a strawhat base, but since it’s cheap and availble I found it suitable for a campfollower.  

The hat is based on Erhard Schöns “Landsknecht and Wife”, 1525-1530.

How I made the hat;

1) Take a straw hat and mark and cut of the top. Don’t worry if the hole is too big, you’re going to add a layer of fabric, which will reduce the size some, and if you planning to wear it on top of some kind of head cloth, you kind of want it to be larger than your head.

  In this case I used an old straw which was a bit damaged anyway. 

2) measure the width of the brim and double the measurement and add seam allowance, this is the width. Measure the outer circumference of the straw hat, and this is the minimum length of the fabric. My straw hat was exactly the width of my fabric, which was nice.

Tip: wool rips really easy: just snip and rip in perfectly straight lines.

Mark the middle of the fabric and put in gatherings threads, mine is about 1/2 inch (2 cm) between. I choose to make two rows on each side of the middle, to ensure that the pleats would stay neat on both side of the brim. (Honestly, I remade my gathering threads six times before I settled for this kind. Do as you believe works best for you)

3) pull the gatherings thread carefully, you-do-not-want-them-to-brake! I used a thicker linen thread, it still broke, and I had to remake it. Fun times… Fold the fabric over the hat and place the gathered part along the inner hole. I then pulled and pinned the fabric evenly over the brim, making sure it was evenly stretched.

4) I made sure I’ve pinned all the way around on the brim and let go of the pins around the outer edge, so I could fold and whip stitched the two layers of fabric on the outer side, without loosing the even pleating. 

5) the inner hole with the two rows of gathering thread ended up even and nicely 

6) I wasn’t able to find any leeds on how the top of a fabric covered Tellerbarret would look like, so instead I study several different other models of a wide flat type of hat around the same period,  to get an idea what would be most plausible design. Here is three examples of the construction of the crown: 


A) most tops seems very flat, some looks like they are made out of a cut out round circle, some like they’ve been shaped (felt? leather?) or possibly sewn out of several pieces. The design I chose is based on the first woodcut which seems to have a curve. 

B) some hats seems to have some sort of butto- like decoration on the top.

C) I’ve noticed that a cord during this period, often seem to go through the brim and over the head.

7) a friends pattern of a hat crown seemed to be similar to the shape I was looking for; measure the base to be sure it will fill up the hole on your hat, don’t forget to take any seam allowance into the calculation. Cut out four, sew together. 

8) the crown is then sewn on to the brim; the edge is folded to keep it hidden. The edge is then whip stitched to the brim, which also helps keep the pleating even.


9) add cords; when you look at the woodcut, the cords seems like they goes through/attached to the brim rather then the seam between the crown and brim, so I punched a hole through all the layers and pulled my cord through it.


10) …and the hat is finished to be decorated with feathers; I am still working on how to get the same look as the woodcut, I have some ideas I’ll experiment with and publish when I’m satisfied with the result.

Amount of work hours around 8-10 hours.


Things to work on:

When studying and compare my finished hat with the woodcut, a few things might need a tweak.

– thinner cord

– smaller straw hat; the size between head and edge is smaller then mine.

– more fabric? The woodcut shows more pleats, which is also smaller. Since I made the hat out of Melton wool, I would probably need to experiment with either a thinner wool or another type of fabric.


Zander-Siedel, Textiler Husrat: Kleidung und Haustextilien in Nürnberg Von 1500-1600. (English translation by Katerine Barich), 1990

Graf, Breünner, Jacob, Landsknecht Woodcuts: Kriegsvölker Im Zeitalter der Landsknechte (edited by M. McNealy), 2013

The first book of fashion: the book of Clothes of Matthäus and Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Edited by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward), 2015

Tece de Kaxtone, Drachenwald,

A Swiss dress from the 16th century

IMG_1610 (Urs Graf 1517

Since the whole dress on my woodcut isn’t really visible and doesn’t provide any specific details, I collected woodcuts made by Urs Graf, and sorted them into chronological order to better get an idea of the evolution of a Swiss dress from around 1500 and up to around ten years after the woodcut I based my sleeve on.





The woodcuts aren’t that precise and it’s tricky to figure out if the details just might be left out, or if it’s really part of the construction, though they still gives you some ideas of how to assemble the construction of the dress;

– the neck line is rounded and very low cut both in the front and back.
– some necklines is even so low cut that they goes underneath the bust.
– the shoulders is very far out on, sometimes not even on the shoulders (which also also be a bit exaggerated by the artist since some woodcuts also shows the naked bosom)
– the skirt is very full, but doesn’t have that much of fabric around the waistline, which indicates a triangular cut.
– the skirt seems to be gathered in different ways around the waistline; some is gathered more in the front and back, and others seem to have an evenly distributed gathering around the waistline
– the skirt is usually depicted long with a train, sometimes it’s hoisted up as very common among the woodcuts of German Camfollowers
– it seems more common with just a plain skirt, even though some of them have one or several guards along the bottom part of the skirt
– front opening seem to be common, and some woodcuts even shows a large opening in the front of the skirt.
– slashing around the neckline seems to not be common even though it exists

The Bodice 

I favor the four panel construction of my bodice, since it gives more control of the fabric to shape it to fit me properly, and one of the woodcuts from 1514 shows a shade in the back of her that might indicate a backseam. After I finished my bodice, I realize that the low cut back made a backseam a bit unnecessary, and since I have to move the front patterns sides backwards anyways, I will remake the swiss pattern into three pieces for the next dress since it will save me some sewing time.

The construction of the shoulders was a bit challenging; I wanted them to go very far out, but still not fall of my shoulders or hinder my movement. At this point I wished I had more time to finish a proper supportive undergarment that would take off some of the strain from the outer dress, but time is a matter, and I have to wait a little more before I get that done…

When working on the shoulder straps I become a bit suspicious that the woodcuts might be a bit exaggerated; how can you move your arms if you have a dress hanging over them? To be sure that Urs Graf’s woodcuts is actually showing a correct dress, with broad shoulders, I started to look for other Swiss paintings from this period.

Detail of the Meyer Madonna by Holbein (1526-1528)

Holbeins painting of the young daughter of Meyer shows the same type of bodice with the shoulders far apart and with both front and back very low cut. This also shows the that the front isn’t covered by a guard …which I didn’t notice until a little bit to late when I made my own bodice; I didn’t payed enough attention to realize that the Swiss dress looked differently then the 16th c German dresses, and that the guard covering the front opening didn’t showed up in Switzerland until much later …some ad hoc solutions was therefore made on my own bodice because I had to fix my mistakes. Very well, lesson learned…


Since I already had sewn the hooks and eyes on the inside of the dress, I needed a solution to hide the stitches (because I didn’t wanted to remove them all and do it all over again) so I ended up hiding the stitches with a folded piece of fabric around the front edge. Next dress I’m hiding the hooks between the layers instead.


The hooks and eyes are made out of an 18 gauge silver plated bronze wire and attached on the inside with stitches through both layers of fabric.

During the last years I’ve been trying to increase the amount of documentable techniques, tools and supplies. Since I havnt found any sources of using dyed linen thread, (and the dress is supposedly based on a woodcut for a Campfollower, so silk thread isn’t an option), I use a natural linen thread. The thread is therefore hard to hide, so the focus is to just keep it as invisible as possible on the outside, while I let it be shown on the inside. 

C. Aneer in her thesis “Skrädderi för kungligt bruk” (Uppsala 2007) have a section about the quality in stitches from a variety of clothes (c 1600-1615) from the a Swedish Royal Armoury, where she reflects over the low quality of the stitches, that the clothes seem to be basically whipped together with no more care then to hold, rather than showing off an elaborate tailoring skills with high quality seams. (Underwear is a different subject; they are incredible neatly stitched together). It might seem plausible consider that outerwear probably isn’t going to be washed in the way as underwear, and therefore doesn’t need the same strong and neat seams as underwear would require.

My thread is therefore visible on the inside and I tried to use just enough stitches to ensure that the dress wouldn’t fall apart …which didn’t really worked since my muscle memory was still set for tiny stitches after the last major project “The Sture Shirt”. I did though use a larger amount of whip stitching then before and the bodice is therefore whip stitched instead of sewn with back stitches.


The fashion fabric is wipstiched from the inside, and then the lining is wipstitched. The picture also show the stitches of the inside of the arm hole, the seam is prick stitched on the outside …and due to lack of economical resources at the moment, I had to use a coloured linen i already had, to line the bodice, instead of buying a natural linen which would have been more historical accurate. That descion was a bit hard to do, but sometimes the mundane life doesn’t cooperate with your perfect ideals.

The guards on the bodice is made by a straight piece, pinned down and steamead to form around the corners in the front and back. By using the light coloured thread, I decided to let the guards fold over and then simply stitch it on the inside. The inside edge isnt folded to keep the layers of wool to a minimum.

Since the sleeves need to be attached by a cord, and i cant find any sources of possible easy-to-use solutions, i decided to simply just add three rings on the inside around the top part of the shoulder, where the corde from the sleeves easy can be slipped into and would not be noticed when i choose to wear the dress sleeveless.

 Early 16th c Swiss dresses seems to only have guards around the neckline, the back has a very distinctive round shape and the front seem to dip very low and close to the armholes. The inside of one of the shoulder straps shows one of the rings for the attachable sleeve

The skirt

This was the most interesting part because I had the opportunity to try a couple of new techniques! The woodcuts shows that all the skirt has a distinct fall that most probabl can only be achieved with some sort of triangle cut of the fabric (…rather then the rectangular tube construction I use when making German garb). When searching for input of different ways to achieve that look, I study both Mistress Ariana and Mistress Julianas half circular constructions an decided to try one of the Alcega constructions. One of the impressive works that is being done is one mans project of making mini reproductions of the Alcega patterns, and his research helped me quit a long way to easy achieve the look I was aiming for.

If you havn’t seen The Alcega Project yet, please take a moment to look at his blog, it’s a joy to read!

By this point I got a bit carried away and have unfortunately not so many picture of the process; but you can se my transfer of the original pattern on to my double folded fabric (which gives you a straight grain in the front and back) and the little interesting detail of the different sized triangles whichs helps flare out the skirt in the bottom. (The small picture shows the different in length of back and front, which I decided to keep to give the skirt a little bit of a train)




The pattern gives you two non symmetrical triangular shapes  on the side of the dress

The hem

The wool I use is light weight, so I took the opportunity to try a technique a talented friend of mine used for her latest 16th German dress (Adelheit is one of my favorite choice to discuss 16th century sewing with, I warmly recommend to visit her newly started blog) which gives a bit extra stability …and also protects the hem and makes it look a little bit like I actually have an underskirt (California, you’re a very hot lady). Different ways to add extra stability and sturdiness can be seen in extant pieces, and with the information provided by Adelheit from her tries, I gave it a try;

1) The brown fabric is back stitched to the edge, then folded over a piece of double folded left over heavy weight wool fabric I happen to have in my scrap stash. Small running stitches keeps the inner layer of wool in place.

2) The orange fabric is then prickstitched on the front side to keep it flat and adding some extra weight

3) The brown fabric is then folded and stitched, which can be seen some from the outside 

4) I experimented with different kind of stitches; as a Campfollower, I probably wear the skirt hoisted, which would make the seam of the hem visible. I tried both wipstitch and running stitch but instead used a hidden running stitch (to the left) which is basically hiding the thread inside the fabric

The width of the brown fabric is simply decided by the fact that I use a light weight wool which makes the final stitches very visible, so I went for just about 1 1/2″, enough to give stability, but not too wide so I kept the front side stitches close to the hem.

The Skirt Guard

There isn’t that many 16th c Swiss dresses with a decorative guard on the skirt,  but since the dress is planned to be worn with out the fancy sleeves, I wanted to add something extra to cheer it up a bit …and also challenge myself to try to add a straight piece of fabric to a curved skirt.

  The original woodcut doesn’t show the full figure, which gave me some freedom to design the rest of the look on the dress, and I decided to use this guard design because it gave me the opportunity to add both brown and an additional yellow colour.

 The reason I choose to finish the hem before adding the guard was to make sure I had an even edge to work from when marking out the path of the guard (my Smocking ruler was very handy to use).

The top part is pinned and stitched first, since it’s the shortest length due to the cut of the skirt …the bottom part need some stretching before its pinned, and I wanted to be sure that the top wasn’t going to move. The yellow wool is simply double folded and slipped in between the lathe here, saving me some sewing time.

The bottom part is then steamed and pinned in order to follow the curve of the skirt

Before picture of the guard before its steamed and ironed flat. The construction of the skirt with the straight front and the flares on the sides, actually made this step easier then anticipated; I basically just need to start in the front and back and pin the guard against the sides until it started to crinkle, and then I steamed the fabric between this two points to form the guards to follow the curve of the skirt. 

The yellow fabric is slipped in before I start to sew;  

When you don’t want to pin all layers together (or pin on the ironing board as I did here since I was still using the iron to flatten the guards) you can always put something hard underneath to prevent the pin to go through to many layers (I used my ruler for example)  

…then all its left is to attach the skirt to the bodice, in this case I used evenly rolled pleats (woodcut number 3), attach the inner lining to the skirt and attach the sleeves and take a picture of the dress hangin on my dress form, until I can use it for the next event! 
Woodcut 1 and 4 is the same woodcut, and shows the inspiration for the neckline and the guards. 

Woodcut number 2 is the original I used as a base for this dress project with the fancy sleeves

Woodcut number 3 shows the inspiration of the pleating technique I used.

Update: I havn’t still got the time to take a clear picture, but some of my friends have at least managed to catch me in different angles during  this past weeks; 

Pictures taken by B. Rudmann

German or Swiss? Landsknecht or Reisläufer?

The quick and dirty introduction of who’s who;

Until 1490 the Swiss were the superior warriors of Europe, and Swiss instructors was imported to tech German soldiers how to fight, forming a new group of mercenaries in Europe, the Landsknechts. The Landsknechts also copy the Swiss outfit and even added more slashes and flamboyant look to it.

The Landsknecht copying the Swiss fighting style and fashion wasn’t that popular among the Reisläufers and the lesser employment opportunities with a growing group of Landsknechts, made the two groups bitter rivals and enemies, especially since the Landsknecht didn’t care for who they fought for …as long as they were payed.

The woodcut below shows a rare view of a Landsknecht and a Reisläufer in the same woodcut, a symbol of a truce between the two groups during this period of wars raging back and forth through Europe.


The slashing
The Landsknecht on the left has the distinct x slashing on his leg popularly interpret as the representing the cross of Saint Andrew and the Holy Roman Empire (Osprey). The Reisläufer’s chest and sleeve has a + slashing representing the Swiss Confederation.

The artist
Some artist painted several different kind of mercenaries, but most of them have their favorite kind of mercenary; Urs Graf (Swiss citizen and served as a mercenary during his lifetime) is more likely to paint Reisläufers rather then Landsknechts.

The weapons
The Katzbalger was seen as the symbol for a Landsknecht. Katzbalger is the short sword seen of the left mercenary above.

Feather, feathers and plumes!

How do I decorate my 16th century hat?

The ostrich feather, big voluminous plumes, in a hat is what catch your eye when you see the 16th century Germany dresses, even though many hats during that period didn’t have any feathers, or maybe only one single one. The feather comes from the ostrich, who derives from Africa, but now has spread all over the world via farms due to their adaptations to the climate. The feathers of adult males are mostly black, with white feathers on the tip of the wings and a white tail. Females and young males are greyish-brown and white.

The ostrich gives you a couple of different kind of feathers, depending on where on the body it was located, long, short, stiff, soft etc. The wing feathers provides the big fluffy and soft plumes.

The plumes has a very nice and soft tip that ‘bobble’ when you wear it, in contrary to feathers which have a stiff tip …but plumes are also more expensive then the regular feathers, so choose what you want to spend.

Wing feather/plume (left) and feather (right)

How many feathers should I use?
The feathers are important for the impression the hat is going to make, a hat without feathers can still be a beautiful piece of handicraft, but adding feathers always gets the ooooh and aaaah. Feathers also provides stiffening to the brim …as well as extra sail for the wind. How many feathers depends on how you planning to show them and depending on the purpose of your hat; is it going to become an art and science piece competing in period accuracy? Then you should choose feathers appropriate to your outfit, the feathers was expensive back in the days, and even today the feathers cost a lot (Plumes/wing feathers are more expensive then ordinary feathers, the one I use cost around $6-7 (45-50 SEK) per plume, and can be found at Pimp Your Garb or Kapitelhusgarden).

My small hats has a tendency to have around 7 feathers, that gives me the look I want too have (I loose some, I add some…).

To give you an indication of how feathers was used, study woodcuts and paintings of different classes and sexes and areas of what we usually define as the 16th century of Germany. There is woodcuts with Landsknechts, paintings with Saxon princess, religious paintings and portrait, you can study, depending what area you are interested in.

Here is some example:

You can spread the feathers evenly all around the brim like this:
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You can have one or two feathers, straight up or hanging down, or one point forward or both pointing backwards or evenly resting on the brim on both side of your head:
1eb18c98805cce811fbc56649a39c5d9 31f078860de87e7d95503744fc05b8d0 48419fc660f518f63e185b47f7392fb1 aa70b59b773b422a2eb40db9243353b4 20b7c332a7a7231d050cbbc7e40ab2fb 954b64610bcc73999a96b9f7eb53ece8 043588d0380473131d10e812df8e5b2b 3a6c41560e379f19b1bc11912b49d950 86adf443496d39995c8f7582f3332075 878914f7b1aec33daf957ecc2c56474c

You can choose an amount of feathers somewhere in between, and have them point straight up, or spread evenly on both sides, or all to the front, or all hanging in the back:
0da67f16fa11683a60fe96d4b6d7b095 5f8df91f5819b850965d99f7c6356043 82ff4f5764d902de2d5f9a354cbc1f22 a5876ccc40392befe4fa165b0199416b beb9d19a8c3dbb2a1f8686c98393236b ecd0214a2ec6107fa8c74e28e92a4a9f

Strictly speaking, the amount of feathers depends on your status: an officer has probably more feathers then a simple drummer, a Saxon princess has probably higher quality feathers then a trossfrau etc. An officers female follower has probably more feathers then a follower to a foot soldier, a middle class women has probably fewer then a general etc. There is probably even a different depending where in Germany you live, so there is all kind of different variable that needs to be taken in consideration when making a hat proper to your dress …or just choose to add the amount of feathers you wish to have, and be satisfied with your ooooh’s and the aaaah’s as you walk by.

Most of the woodcuts and paintings are portraits, often made to make the motif look their best, or sometimes a generalization of how a group is presented. The feather was probably not part of the everyday dress, especially for the lower classes, but more often used when posing, processing etc, and they could also been added as a symbol of power, purity or flamboyant. I’ll talk more about symbolism in renaissance paintings and woodcuts in the next blog.

If we then study paintings of camp scenes or painted groups of people, we will probably get a more appropriate window into the every day life:


Detail of painting of Karl V camp, 1546
You see around 50 people in the painting, and still nobody is wearing any feathers among the landsknechts and camp follower, even though almost every single one is wearing same style hat as above (one guy in a red hat has something that might be interpreted as feathers laying on his brim)

Feathers seem to be more common among the nobles (especially women …and men dressed in armour)…and landsknechts. The middle class seem to have a more humble approach and maybe only wear one feather, if they have any at all. The trossfraus, the camp followers of the landsknechts (which I’m specifically interested in), seem to wear feathers more often when posing; alone or in the company of a landsknecht, rather then during a march, cooking, or any other everyday chores (which makes sense of course).


One exception is the picture “La Lansquenette” (pic no 7) which shows a fully dressed trossfrau loaded with things and obviously on the march.

More woodcuts and paintings from the 16th century, Germany, can also be found at my Pinterest

How do I attach the feathers?
First you have choose the amount of feathers you wish to have on your hat, then you want to attach them in some way to prevent them from falling off. Some people stitch them to the hat, I prefer to use pins, sturdy pins around 2″ (7-10 cm) so I can re-arrange them if I want, but it’s also easier to get them to stick where I want them to be. I prefer this type of hat pins:

Before I attach them, I always curl them to give them that perky look, there is several ways to curl a feather, but I’m usually just start at the top of the feather, grabbing it carefully between my thumb and fingers and pull it towards the tip …working my way down the stim until I have reached the curl I want.
Normal feather and slightly curled feather …and curled feather and really, really curled feather that takes the shape of a spiral

Spiral curled feahter

Some feathers might have a thick vane, so you need to soften it: boil a pan of water and hold the feather over the steam to soften the stim before curling.

It becomes very obvious when you curl the feather from which side of the bird the feather comes from, use the natural right or left feather when decorating the hat.20130927-175641.jpg Left and right curl

Don’t rush this part of attaching feathers, it takes me around an 30-40 min to attach feathers to a new hat. Do it in steps: curled the feather, attach it, take a look, attach another two, take a look of the result etc. After you’re finished with the placement, then use the pins to be secure them in place.

20131016-151046.jpg 20131016-151055.jpg
Slightly curled feathers attached to a Saxon hat

Spiral curled feathers attached to the same hat

20131016-151220.jpg 20131105-145027.jpg
The hat to the left has 22 curled feathers, the hat to the right has 29 spiral curled feathers
Same hat, with spiral curled feathers, where the feathers are pointing upwards instead of resting on the brim.

Don’t forget to attach the pins to secure the feathers from not falling off in the wind.

How many feathers, how you curl them, depends on what kind of hat you have and what kind of result you are after:


1) My small hat: where my feathers points straight up (the surrounding people are very happy about that) and I use on top of my wulsthaube.
2) The easy one: that I can just slip on top of a simple headpiece
3) The Saxon hat that gives great protection from the Californian sun (and Swedish rain): The last hat should be used to a Saxon dress, but apparently I can’t find any picture of myself in one… I apologies for the slightly anachronistic way I wear it. But it was a GREAT sun protection! …note that I basically just added some feathers on one side on the last one.

How do I transport and storage the hat?
The feather is pretty strong, I usually just roll it into my veil, mostly because the feathers has a tendency to get stuck in the zipper… I rarely remove the feathers from the hat, but I also have soft hats with no wire nor buckram or anything that stiffen it. Just plain old double layer of wool. Well, except for my Saxon court hat, that one actually has a layer of plastic inside, and the size is perfect fit to my bag, but with out the feathers…

My feathers has been through rain and has always regain their fluffiness after they dried, but if the feathers starts to look a bit sad, then remove them from the hat and use a mild shampoo and rinse them in luke warm water, dry them with the tip down, or if you are in a hurry, blow dry them on cool settings, smooth the vane with your fingers during the time your air blow them and redo the curls if necessary to make them fluffy again.

Heat, sun, dust, soap etc can damage the feathers in the same way as your skin and hair, becoming dry and fragile. My feathers seem to have about 2-3 lifespan before they become dry and brakes when I curl them. (It doesn’t stop me from using them as filling between other more fresher feathers) The feathers can be attacked by insects and mites so storage your feather (and hat if they are still attached) the same way you storage your wool dresses, cedar has a natural repellent to insects, and you can buy cedar balls to put into your hat box, the box will keep the feathers away from direct sun light when your are not using it. Avoid storage the feathers in plastic bags, since that will prevent them from breathing.

(If you choose to use dyed feathers, then be sure that they won’t bleed in the rain, otherwise it may discolour your hemd.)

Lucas Cranach Digital Archive
– M. McDonald, Ferdinand Columbus: Renaissance (London, British Museum Press, 2005)
– Wikipedia
– Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce
– Bishop Museum, The care of feathers, 1996
– Pinterest

The dark secrets behind the dress

A couple of months ago, Curious Frau poster a picture of a german gollar from Schwaebisch Hall, it was found in a house and was once a precious piece of garment, and passed down from maid to maid. You can see that it has been patched an re-patched, just so it can be used over and over again.


20130920-184717.jpg (photo by M. McNealy)

It’s an adorable piece of garment, and give us a hint of the value that it once had for the owner/s, so precious that it has been taking care of in all the possible way to make sure it would be wearable for along time.

A friend of mine provided me with an interesting aspect of our modern way of approaching the recreation of another time period, of the stress we all have of wanting to have a new garb for every new event we attend, but either not got the money to buy fabric or the time to make a new dress. Or both. Or maybe not even have the skills to do it yourself. She suggest that we should instead just relax and wear that same old dresses …because it’s pretty period right?

The very same friend decided to hand sew a complete garb; apron, coat and vigil dress all by hand, with the latest pattern research and with period stitches. During the process, she told me, she suddenly noticed that working by hand gave her a completely different relationship to her dress; the amount of time and labour she put into it gave her an new insight of the making of a dress might have been like for those who once did it, not for a hobby, but as a part of the everyday life. The dress wasn’t just a dress, not even the underdress, she knew every single inch of that dress, has been made by her hands. Her revaluation of sewing gave me an insight of “why” I never liked a complete new dress I made, it was machine made. The first machine sewn dress I have made in 5 years, an I only made it because I felt the pressure to have a new piece of garb for the next event …I used it one time and decided that I didn’t like it (and it was also a bit to big). It was just a pile of fabric, it took me two-three days to make and it wasn’t me, just because it was not hand sewn, it hadn’t the “soul” that my other (sometimes crooked and patched and funny) garb have.

So, remember the cutting anxiety you might have right before you start cut your new fabric? What then if you also have weaved the fabric, dyed the yarn, breed the sheep etc …then a dress is not just a dress, it’s a huge amount of time invested in it, just like the patched German dollar.

To valuable to just discard.

To go into this even further, I asked some friends about how long time it would take to just weave the fabric necessary for a dress, and they told me it takes about 12 hour to put up the loom for a 70 cm wide fabric, and weave 10 threads/cm, takes around 50 cm/ hour. So for a simple underdress I would estimate around 5-6 meter of fabric (depending on how full you want it, would take about 16-20 hours (they told me to take into consider the small things like the yarn tangles etc).

It takes me around 3-4 days to handsew a simple 4-panel dress with gores (if I do nothing else but sewing all day) , so just making a dress including weaving (not spinning the yarn, dyeing or anything) would take about 3-6weeks (I would assume I need to at least make some food ever now and then) …but that kind of gives us an idea of the amount of work they once put into a dress; of course did they try to save it as long as possible, what ever needed to be adjusted, was still going to take lesser amount of time then to make a complete new dress.

My very first trossfrau dress has been around for a couple of years, and is still a favorite even though it is a bit worn and patched and used. I lost some weight awhile back, and needed to take in the bodice, and so I did and, well, I don’t know how I was thinking, but I removed too much around the bust area. So, either I make a new dress or I alter an old dress.

Now some might say that it’s easier to just make a new dress, but this particular dress is all hand sewn; just the 3 meter of cut, folded, sewn flowers on the skirt trim took me almost 3 weeks to do, and , 4 years later, I still remember how incredible boring it was (…which didn’t really stopped me from doing it again with my purple one), but it is my first dress and I really like it, and it just doesn’t seem right to rip it apart and re-use some parts for a new dress.

And did I mention that I really like the dress?

So here is the dark secrets, an example of the behind the door view of my wardrobe and how I continuously patch and repatch my dresses;

1) the dress is tighter and therefore not enough room for the bust at the too, the solution is to add an extra piece of fabric.
2) trying to see if the patch might be enough …because then the seam would be hidden by the trim
3) attaching the extra piece of fabric
4) attaching the trim over the seams

The finished alternations;



As you can see, I cheated some on the inside; since that part doesn’t have any particular stress I just skipped adding the lining, and I used hooks and eyes instead of moving around the lacing rings. You can also see the seams where I had to add extra trim due to the alternations (the alternative was to rip all of the remaing trim down to the waist, including ripping some of skirt seam around the waistline). I didn’t do that, because the dress is still very old and will never be used in an A&S display nor win a beauty competition; this dress is a piece of my everyday dress, so I don’t mind if my seams are visible or not.

Since I was alternating the dress anyway, I also decided to lower the back to match the square front (and it will also ease the stress in the front, yeah, my bust was still a bit to large to fit, but I didn’t had any other option to increase the front without redoing the bodice even more then the little triangle)

Removing is of course easier then adding, so it is a simple procedure; mark, cut, stitch together.

The skirt also has slashes in the perfect hight of getting caught by benches, branches etc, so it is a continuing work of repairing of the slashes;


The linen thread also gives up after a couple of years;


Is it worth it then to keep on attending to your garb, sewing, patching an petting it? Obviously for me it is, this dress is not only a dress, it is a companion who has been with me over a long time, sharing many good memories over the years, and I have, literally, touched every inch of it with my hands over many hours over making it, repairing it and wearing it!

So to all of you out there, with the pre event anxiety of not having a new set of garb, why not reuse your old ones? Maybe replacing a trim? Taking it in? Adding a new lacing? Patch that hole in the front?

And speaking of being period, I’m a Trossfrau, I don’t have a bunch of fancy ladies-in-waiting serving me new clothes. I have to take good care of what I have …and use it as long as I can.

The Lansquenette Hat

I found an old hat project I started on a couple of years back, which I never finished because it kind of failed… Now, three years later, I realized that it might be able to get something out of it anyway.

The Lansquenette hat is a kind of unique, as in that its not one of the most common ones to be seen , the concept and construction is popular, and I have seen a lot of trossfraus all over the world wear something similar.

Anonymous, La Lansquenette, 1567

As you can see, the hat has its slashing slightly shifted, creating a spiral slash pattern.

The first tryout I made was just a rectangle with straight slashes, since I had the idea of then sew them into a tube, flatten it, shift it, to make it look like the woodcut, and then simply stitch it in place. This didn’t work at all…

So my next try was this;

I instead cut the slashes diagonally and sew it all into a tube, fold it…

And tadaa, it worked!

This is when it kind of failed a couple of years back; the fabric I have use is to light weight/thin and it’s just hang there like a sad starfish.

So *drums* …years later I suddenly decided to try to reinforce the fabric, by simply adding a thick linen on the backside of each slash, which made the construction much sturdier and less floppy.

I then added silk on the inside


Stitched it in place and fold everything back and sew the inner side together.


The next problem is though that the brim is still to floppy;

So I decided to add some stiffness by sewing a simple stitch around the inner edge and pulling it tighter

I got the idea from the woodcut by Erhard Shoen, 1535

Which hat looks like its a piece of fabric, simple gathered in the middle by a pull string.

Next step is to figure out the top of the hat, since the woodcut doesn’t show any of that part, I kind of thought of adding the popular folded square (that makes it looks like a square with a flower pattern.

…here I use a quarter of a paper to get the idea of what size I needed, but the size I wanted to have, didn’t have me any good way of attach it to the hat without stitch it through the slashes, and that wouldn’t give enough sturdiness and would make the hat pull weirdly when wearing it.

So I decided to make a basic 16th cent construction, and was inspired of the pattern from this woodcut (which is about 50 years to early, but decided to be a bit anachronistic and ignore it …just to finish the three year old hat project) as you can see, the hat is worn by a male person, but since I have seen so many examples of unisex hats, I it feels kind of okey anyway)


Trying out the paper pattern.

20130819-123951.jpg20130819-124002.jpgcut out two round piece, one with the pattern of my choice, and one with a whole in it (this is the one that connects the top to the brim)

Attach your silk (or fabric by choice)
-silk puffing
-top piece with decoration
-middle piece

Turned everything and finishing the sides, then attach it to the hat;




Improvements to be made for the next one;
– use a thicker wool
– use wider and lesser amount of ‘bars’
– make the width of the bar rectangle a little more narrow, maybe around 20 cm instead of 25 cm

Smocking trial and error

I have for awhile been curious about how the undergarment of Dorothea Meyer (Holbein) might have been made

And a recent discussion with some friends gave me an idea to try out with smocking. The thread is pretty thick, so I used a white wool yarn I happened to have home on a piece of linen


…and even though it is pretty close, I’m not completely convinced that the smocking technique is used for this

1) the thread is more likely sewn on to the surface of the fabric
2) can’t figure out where all the extra yarn in the middle tassel comes from, unless its just attached as extra bling of course
3) the thread seems to be a cord because its end has a little knot, which you would add if you need to make sure it doesn’t unwrap itself, and the extra “tassel” is underneath the cord, not part of it.
4) don’t know if it might be the painters interpretation or not, but you need more then two stitches per “quadrant line” if you are using the smocking technique.

…but if you are planning to recreate the underdress, then I would suggest using a nice thick silk thread

An overview of the Trossfrau

Landsknechte (German plural, singular Landsknecht) were mercenaries from the late 15th to the late 16th century. Knecht, meaning servant, helper, or stooge, was also used for the paid foot soldiers that were to be known as the Landsknecht. The format of the German mercenaries was inspired from the Swiss army, as was the dress fashion. Swiss mercenaries were called Reisläufer, and you can use the slashes to spot the difference between them: Germans had “x” slashes and Swiss had “+” slashes.
The tross were the camp followers who traveled with each Landsknecht unit, carrying the military necessities, food, and belongings of each soldier and his family. The tross were made up of women, children, and some craftsmen.
The name of the women traveling with the landsknecht came be known as kampfrau or trossfrau. Neither is a period name even though today they are used to describe the group of “females hanging with the landsknechts”. Just before this class I took a long discussion with Meisterine Katheryn Hebenstreitz, about what to name to use for all those women who follows the Tross, and decided that Trossfrau, seem more accurate then the word Kampfrau, and therefore that is what I have decided use in this hand out. Feel free to use the term you like, the important issue is that other people know what you are talking about.
The period description of the women would have to be divided into several categories according to their role in the Tross:

The fraue was the person the Landsknecht was legally married to, even though they also had a sort of fake marriage that happened when the leaders tried to regulate the number of women following the tross. Since the war campaigns usually started during spring, this kind of marriage was known as a may marriage and the wife known as mai fraue.
Whure was a women who wasn’t married to the man she followed, kind of like a modern partnership with a man and a women.
Dirne was the prostitute who made her living by selling her services, and they even could be found in the payrolls as a legal worker during the war campaigns. Some men left their wife at home while they in the field had a mai fraue or a whure who helped him and took care of him during the war campaign. The women also took part in the looting of the battlefield as a way to make some extra money for living. Some of the women also had a professional role in the camp as neterin (seamstress) or lautenschlagerin (lute player), etc.

The most popular theory about the elaborate dress is that it started as loot from the battlefield, and was then altered to fit the new wearer. A new leg replaced the old one, a piece of brocade became a trim, etc, which can be done easiest by slashing the parts that might be too tight. The style of dress later developed and eventually became so flamboyant that Kaiser Maximilian I exempted it from the prevalent sumptuary laws as an acknowledgement of their “…short and brutish” lives. One theory though claims that Kaiser Maximilliam had trouble controlling the Landsknechts and therefore gave them the freedom to dress as they wanted rather than seem like a weak ruler.

Remember… your dress doesn’t have to be an exact copy of a 16th century woodcut, you are free to cut any corners you want to – but always be aware that you also are part of someone else’s dream.

The small picture of paintings and woodcuts are not necessary an image of a Trossfrau (as you probably noticed), but added to give you a broader perspective of the different construction and appearance of the 16th century German dress. The head-to-toe woodcuts under the section “The dress”, are all images of a Trossfrau.

The Gollar is made out of wool and lined with linen, and often just covers the top part of the body. It can be pointy in the front, have a high neck and be worn open in the front. It has usually decorative trim, and can be lined with fur.overview gollar

The Apron is made out of a rectangular piece of linen, with pleatwork embroidery (smocking) at the top, using the same pattern as seen on the chemise. The early recreations of a split Trossfrau dress (separate jacket and skirt) were probably a misinterpretation that the apron was a part of the chemise visible in the waistline. You can find three different kinds of aprons: as a skirt, as a rectangular piece in the front, or as one with two rectangular pieces sewn together in the sides and pleated in the top and with bands over the shoulder.
The pouch is made out of leather and has several compartments.

The chemise, or shirt, is made out of linen, with pleatwork embroidery or smocking. The chemise can be either low cut or have a high neck collar and comes to mid thigh. The chemise is made out of rectangular shapes gathered by the smocking around the neck line and cuffs. The pattern for the chemise is usually based either on the Sture Shirt findings from Sweden and the fragments from Alpirsbach monastery in Germany. The chemise is basically unisex, except for the few examples that have more smocking on the sleeves.

The dress is a fitted bodice with a contrasting colored trim, which hides the stitches from the closing (either laced or hooks and eyes). It has long sleeves and some woodcuts indicate that the sleeves are attached to the dress by ties. The skirt is made out of a gathered tube, either with rolled pleats or double box pleats, and has often two stripes in a contrasting color (some woodcuts indicate the use of brocade). The woodcuts shows that trim, stripes, and sleeves are sometimes slashed, either the ‘x’ or the ‘+’, but also only a simple ‘/’ (which doesn’t necessary means that the dress actually was slashes, but instead was a way pointing out if she was either a German or a Swiss). The outer dress is made out of felted wool and the bodice is lined with one layer of linen. The slashes are either white silk or linen, depending on your budget, but many of the pictures may indicate that it’s actually the chemise you see through the slashes, and not added puff. But if you study upper class clothing, you can clearly see that the puffs are made by adding extra fabric sewn into the dress between the lining and outer fabric. If you want to add extra puffs, then silk is recommend for the sleeves or any other places that you want to puff them a bit more. Linen looses the puffiness, attracts dirt easier, and is heavier than silk. The skirt is hoisted up by a belt worn over the hips, letting you use the opening in the front as a pouch. The Trossfrau rarely had any complex double puff/slashed sleeves, their dresses are usually very simple without the decorations that the male garb had.
Overview Trossfrau

The hat has many different shapes from small to big, from stiff to sloppy, from a few feathers to totally covered with a large amount of feathers. It’s made out of wool and the puffs can either be of colored linen or silk, depending on your budget. There is even knitted berets preserved from the period, which were used for both man and women. The ostrich plumes (preferably plumes and not feathers, since the plumes has a nicer softer approach), should be natural colors (white, grey, black, brownish). Almost all the feathers are white in the woodcuts and paintings. The head cloth consist of three layers: it probably was just two braids, crossed over the head to form a bulge underneath the cloth, wulsthaube. On top of that you can wear either a steuchlein (plain thin cloth) or a värcher (face is lined by pleats). The cloth covering the chin is called bendlein. The “tail’ is called schleier, and was used to cover you face during the dusty march through the country. The cloth is made out of linen, but can also be silk. Either way it can be decorated with embroidery

The underskirt is made out of linen and is a plain tube pleated at the waistline, and can have one or two stripes in a contrasting color. The hose were sewn out of thin wool, and held up with a band above the calf/knee. The hose can either be in one colour or several. The Shoes (Kuhmaleshoe = cow nose shoes; from the similar shape) has a specific flat front part, usually one band crossing the foot, but could also be more rounded as a modern shoe.

– Rogg, Matthias: Landsknechte und Reisläufer: Bilder vom Soldaten
– Holbein, Hans d.J.: Zeichnungen aus dem Kupferstichkabinett der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel
– -Mistress Katheryn Hebenstreitz, a Laurel and Pelican in the SCA with a focus on 16th Century German Clothing -Web Gallery of Art, The Web Gallery of Art is a virtual museum and searchable database of Western (European) fine arts of the Medieval, Renaissance etc – digital archive of paintings by Lucas Cranach and his sons – a community for Landsknechts and Trossfraus all around the world–Basic info about the Landsknecht and high resolution pictures of woodcuts, and don’t be afraid to try to search in a different language, it will give you a good start to find more pictures and inspiration.