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.

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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.

Slashed sleeves for a Landsknecht

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The picture above shows an intricate slashing of a wams, seen from behind, the sleeves has a very interesting shape with the same width from shoulder and down until it gathers around the wrist, creating an image of a pair of almost rectangular constructed sleeves.

The late 16th c pattern from Germany (also translated to English by C. Köhler in A History of Costumes), seems like a perfect shape to use to achieve the same look as the woodcut, including a very easy base to cut the long slashes. The even width of the slashes from shoulder to wrist is also a good inclination that the pattern is a good base to be used …and a picture of my re-calculation to fit my reproduction.

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The adjustments from the original pattern transformed into a full sleeve pattern.

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The fabric slashed in a similar pattern as the woodcut, including cutting it into three separate pieces. It’s hard to say exactly how many slashes the woodcut sleeve have, and I might have made a bit few, but I didn’t want to make the sleeve even larger until I get an idea how the pattern would work in real life; the sleeve still has to be both practical and elegant.

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Each slash is then hemmed, which of course isn’t a must, but the wearer was very specific of having an extraordinary flamboyant outfit, so I hemmed all slashes to make it look as neat as possible. The hemming is done with simple running and wip stitches, and all pieces is then ironed flat.

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Next step is to use the fabulous pinking tool and punch the crescent shaped slashes.

You can see on the woodcut that each sleeve piece has a slashed decor on the edge, which I simply make by ripping around 1″ wide fabric pieces, double fold them and then slash them an inch apart. The job of hemming this small slashes is way to time consuming, so I leave them as they are.

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Tip; ripping wool is an easy way to get long and perfect straight pieces of fabric, just cut around half an inch and rip. The technique works perfectly fine with silk fabric as well.

Each piece is sewn together and the slashed decoration is attached to each side
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Silk is a very nice fabric to work with, it’s light weight and more dirt resistant then linen, and only slightly more expensive. Silk also wrinkles less then linen, and the light weight of the fabric can be gather into incredible small areas, with out adding any particular bulkyness. It’s not unlikely to assume silk was used for garment used by Landsknechts, but it’s probably more likely used by officers, high payed soldiers or high class associates rather then the ordinary foot soldier. Linen fabric was probably much more common, or maybe it’s just your undershirt that is seen through the slashes since you can’t afford no other expenses.
When I calculate how much puffing I need I use at least length x 1,5 for silk, it gives the puffing a basic nice symmetrical look, this sleeves got a little extra length to give them even more flamboyant look. This sleeves is not to be lined, to keep them as cool as possible for the California summer by letting air in through the slashes, the silk is therefore sewed onto the sleeves close to the edge, the edges is then folded over and then just wipstitched, to preventing the silk fraying.

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The pieces seems to be attached with cords, so each part is given four pair of holes on each side.

IMG_1334.JPG by making two holes next to each other, one cord is pulled through both holes on both pieces and can be easily tied on the same side of the fabric.

Each sleeve is hold together by 12 cords with aiglets
IMG_1395.JPG in a woodcut the cords is almost always seen tied with a single loop, and
On this specific woodcut, you can almost make out the loops holding the sleeve-pieces together.

IMG_1440.JPG Even though Urs Graf mostly painted Swiss soldiers, the garment is similar enough to be used for construction studies and Graf’s level of details and everyday poses provides us with valuable as well as the simple fact that the German Landsknechts also was inspired by the Swiss Reisläufers. The single loop cord is of course also seen in other German garment as in Albrecht Von Brandeburgens’s elaborated garment.

Each sleeves three pieces is attached to each other with the points

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And the full sleeve;

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The full outfit can be seen here

Slashing and puffing

There is a number of different ways to slash your landsknecht/trossfrau decorations, the fastest is to simply cut out the pattern in the fabric. Cut out slashes require a fabric that doesn’t fray to much, it is also probably the most period way of slashing. The modern fabric we have today isn’t as felted always, and sometimes you might want to use a light weight wool, then you have the cut-and-stitch option available.

I prefer to cut and stitch, it kind of makes it look neater and also guarantee to prevents the slashes to fray.

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Draw the pattern of your choice, cut with a pair of scissors or use a scalpel, fold the fabric and stitch it down.

Spray the fabric with water and press it flat with the iron.

For smaller slashes that will be folded I just fold the fabric and cut it;

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A tip when working with wool is that wool is very easy to cut-and-rip, I don’t have to put any time in measuring and cutting …something’s that comes very handy and time saving when you for example makes the long trims on the trossfrau skirts. There is a loss of about 2 mm when ripping, but since I handsew most of the garb, the time savings is well worth that cost (…and I am also 100% sure that my trims are straight).

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The white trim I’m making for today is for decorating a pair of short hosen (popular known as landsknecht hot pants). I used the same technique on a pair of other hosen I made for the husband earlier this year;

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After cutting the slashes on the trim, stitch the cuttings down on the backside, forming an oval shape

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When done, I flatten the fabric with water and iron

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Before

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Then it’s ready to be used in the way you prefer

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The trim is 71×8 cm, and has 33 slashes, and takes about 3-4 hours to make.

For puffing I usually use silk; it is light weight so it puffs very nicely and doesn’t become as dirty as linen, the light weight also comes in handy when traveling with airplanes, when every gram is counted for …and wool garb it self is heavy enough.
What would have been used during the 16th century is an open discussion, most people back then would probably use the cheapest material like for example linen, and some people might have the economy to use the more expensive silk.