Monday, December 2, 2013

Sewing for Byzantium: The Himation is Done!

The himation
Finally!  It's done.

Actually, it's not *quite* done. I still need to complete the seam finishing so nothing ravels, and I intend to perpetrate embroidery around the neckline and sleeve-ends at some point. But I may well be able to do the seam finishing tomorrow night, and even now it's wearable. I photographed it on a hanger purely because my husband wanted to go to bed early and I didn't feel like putting on the other garments that go with it (the mantion, savanion, and shirt) for photographs.  I'll do that sometime this week.

Here are the official statistics, as required by the Historical Sew Fortnightly rules:

The Challenge:  #24--Re-do. (i.e., re-do a previous challenge).  As I've said way too many times now previously, my himation qualifies for a number of the previous challenges.  This time, I'm going to list all of the ones for which I think it qualifies:
  • #2 UFO. This is the last necessary component for my Middle Byzantine outfit and I'd been meaning to do it for years now.
  • #5 Peasants and Pioneers. The outfit of which this is one of the most important parts is essentially rich peasant's clothing.
  • #8 By the Sea.  Byzantium (later called Constantinople and now called Istanbul) was a seaport, and many of the Byzantine Empire's provinces were coastal.  
  • #10 Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles.  All early medieval garments are composed of squares, rectangles, and triangles, and this one is no exception.
  • #14 Eastern Influence.  The Byzantine Empire was an Eastern power, compared to the rest of Europe, of course.
  • #17 Robes and Robings.  The neckline and sleeve-ends are trimmed with robings, and one could arguably consider the tunic itself to be a robe.
  • #21  Colour Challenge Green.  Very.
  • #23 Generosity and Gratitude.  I owe a debt of gratitude first to Peter Beatson, whose page on how to make a Manazan shirt inspired me to start making a Middle Byzantine outfit in the first place, but also to Timothy Dawson, whose research, both in print and on the Levantia website, gave me the information to finish it.
Fabric:   Nearly 3 yards of 100% linen, medium weight, in apple green, purchased from  Scraps of the same type of linen in dark blue, from the same source.

Pattern: My own, adapted from Peter Beatson's Manazan shirt pattern and Timothy Dawson's sketches and research.

Year: It is rarely possible to pin down Early Period clothing to a particular year.  My design is Middle Byzantine, i.e., 10th-12th century CE.

Notions: Linen thread, in several different (and not particularly matching) shades of green, 80/3.  Silk thread in dark blue from Gutterman's (for sewing the blue linen around the neck and sleeve-ends). 

How historically accurate is it?  The pattern is as accurate as present research can make it.  It is completely hand-sewn, and at least some of the construction stitches I chose are accurate though I haven't checked very closely.  The colors would be plausible for wool, and the blue was possible on linen (it's pretty close to the blue of the linen apron-dress loop found in the 10th century Pskov grave).  However, I can't document that the particular green I chose for the body of the dress could have been achieved on linen during that period, and there's always the issue of whether linen was used for clothing other than undergarments in period.  So let's say 70%-80%, though that might be wildly optimistic on my part. 

Hours to complete5 hours, spread out over almost as many months.

First wornNot yet! Hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday for photographs, including photographs of the entire Middle Byzantine outfit.  

Total costHard to say because most of the costs were incurred years ago and the blue silk thread was originally bought for another project anyway.  If you added up the original cost of the linen thread and the cloth used, it probably comes to no more than $30 USD.


  1. Great to see it finished! These things always take way longer than we think they're going to. I'd love to see photos of the outfit all together. Byzantine is a culture I know virtually nothing about, so I've found your Byzantine project quite interesting.

  2. Thanks, Stella! I appreciate the good words.

    I fully plan to get my husband to take photos of the whole ensemble completed. (And will likely do so again, when I get the embroidery around the neck/sleeves done, hopefully as part of another HSF challenge!)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks! I do, too. It's hard to find a medium green that doesn't have so much yellow in it that it makes me look sallow without having so much blue that it looks drab.

    2. A further note on the color; the image makes the green look a bit brighter than it really is, but it's in the general ballpark of what the color is like.

    3. Note for those interested: The green fabric I used for the himation came from I don't remember what the name of the color was (I bought the fabric more than 3 years ago) but it's closest to the "Loden Green" they sell now. The fabric variety is their IL019--a medium-weight, somewhat slubby 100% linen fabric. The physical weight is given as 5.3 ounces per square yard, in case that's helpful information. will send small swatches (about 1 inch (2.5 cm) by 2 inch (5 cm) of any of their fabrics for free (they'll send you up to 5 swatches per request).