Sunday, September 4, 2011

Medieval Smocked Apron

With our next medieval event (see below post) coming up soon, I am working on a few accessories to help round out our outfits and give a more finished, complete look to our overall impressions. The impression we are shooting for is roughly later 14th century laboring class. In idealistic imaginings upon the subject, I rather picture our family as working tenants on a small manor in rural England. We live in a small but relatively comfortable home, cultivate fields for both ourselves and our landlord and keep a few animals for livestock. We are not beggars but not wealthy, either.

Anyway, whatever the case may be, the fact is, clothing for medieval reenacting can be expensive, even if you sew it yourself. The reason? The materials are expensive! Wool is the ideal choice for tunics, cotes, kirtles, cloaks, what-have-you, and linen is used for undergarments and possibly as linings. (I have found only one example of an actual linen tunic/cote/thing and the vastly common fabric used seems to have been wool). Silk - well, I don't use silk very often. All three of those fabrics these days are very expensive. When you take into consideration that things ought to be at least partially, if not fully lined, your costs can be doubled.

So, that being said, a new outfit for each of us is really out of the question right now. I have found pure linen and wool skirts at Goodwill for a few dollars each so I think I can make each of the boys a sleeveless surcote to add a more finished look. For myself, I am making a few accessory items that I hope will add interest to my plain and ubiquitous greenish-blue wool gown. ;)

The project I have been working on is a white linen smocked apron. From the first event we ever went to I knew I needed an apron, and one of my favorite blogs, Medieval Silkworks, recently posted about a smocked apron. I read some tutorials and did some research and looked at others interpretations of this useful, pretty accessory and began my own version.

I used some white linen I got earlier this year from Going off of another persons interpretation of the apron, I cut a rectangle of linen appx. 27" x 24" (the long edge being the top). I cartridge pleated the top of the apron and smocked it using a honeycomb stitch. Here is a photo of the apron-in-progress, showing the rows of the honeycomb smocking:

The end result was *way* too small. : / I about cried when I saw how little the apron smocked up to be. It was too short and way too narrow at the top. I was determined to not be defeated by it, though, so pieced on extra fabric at the sides and an extra bit at the bottom, too, to widen and lengthen the apron. I then smocked the extensions to match the original smocking. That problem was solved. Another problem was a drawn thread I had drawn out of the linen to mark a cutting line. It ran above the bottom edge of the original piece of linen I used for the apron. It looked ugly so I embroidered a chain stitch along the line, using threads I pulled out of the linen fabric. Now it looks intentional. :)

After finishing the seams, hemming the apron all round and sewing it to a waistband with long ties, here it is!

I washed it after it was completed to remove the markings for the smocking and it dried very stiff. So excuse any stiffness in the photo. I know after it is used and washed multiple times it will become much softer. I sewed this completely by hand and was jarred whilst working on it to feel such a connection to the project. It took a little longer than machine sewing, but all in all it was only the work of three evenings. I like knowing that I have a project made in the period correct way. Maybe more completely handsewn items will be in my future. I would be daunted by something big and meant to take a lot of stress, but for smaller things, it is very pleasant. :)



  1. I think it turned out very pretty indeed, and think the piecing is charming! Being very fond of hand sewing myself, I can only recomend it - very good as a stress reliever (well, possibly not when you have an event deadline...), and looks good.

  2. Oh. My. Gosh. Your apron is so cool! The smocking is so amazing! AWESOME job. :)

  3. That is so lovely Sarah! I think I've mentioned it before and probably meant to share pics with you, but I have some wine-red wool that you might get better use from. Let me know(either email or fb message me) whether you would like to look at them. My camera is no longer working so I will have to use my hubby's iphone.

    I still would love to get into medieval reenactments...what fun!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!