Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lining a Single-Wrapped Apron Dress

Since my last post, I received the linen that I had ordered for my September Historical Sew Monthly project, the linen-lined wool apron dress.  To my surprise and dismay, I discovered that the fabric in question contains spandex.  (At least, it has enough stretch that it would be hard for me to believe that it doesn't contain spandex.)  Given the color and fine weave of the cloth, it would make a lovely pair (maybe two pair?) of underpants, but using such a stretchy cloth would do nothing to tell me how lining a wool wrapped apron dress with period linen.  So I shall have to obtain some more appropriate linen elsewhere.  Perhaps I have a large enough piece of linen in my stash (or can piece one together) for this project after all; I should check.

In the meantime, this may be a good time to think about how I should construct the apron dress.   I don't mean details about the width or length of the dress.  As I said in my original post, the fragments in Birka grave 464 do not provide sufficient information about how long the dress must have been or even clearly rule out the possibility that the dress was shaped like a tube; it was my decision to see how a wrapped dress that did not violate the known details of the grave 464 find would behave in wear.  

However, that still leaves plenty of construction issues I need to decide.  All we really know about the grave 464 garment is: 1)a piece of silk was folded over the top edge of both the wool outer fabric and the linen inner fabric; 2) it had at least one short loop attached to the top edge; 3) a top corner of the wool, located about 4-5 cm from the outside edge of the tortoise brooch, was mitered, and; 4) the dress was at least hip length.  To give a better idea of the kinds of detail I have in mind, I should list the construction assumptions I'm prepared to make for this project (which include) issues that cannot be resolved on the basis of the find and size dimensions necessary to make it wearable by me), and issues that might be resolvable by closer scrutiny of the find:


1.  Fabric Length and Width.    Based upon my prior experience with wrapped apron dress construction and my current budget constraints, I plan to use a single piece of wool about 60 inches by 36 inches, and a similarly-sized piece of linen, for this project.  

2.  Loop Fabric.  I prefer matching the loop fabric to the outer fabric, but if that turns out not to be possible (i.e., if it turns out I need every inch of the 60 inches to go around me properly), I'll use linen for the loops.  Use of linen loops on wool apron dresses is a well-established phenomenon among the Birka finds.

3.  Warp direction.  Based upon the plans above, I need the 60-inch side of the fabric to go horizontally around my body.  That likely places the warp horizontally and the selvages at top and bottom of the piece, with the maximum length of the garment being one yard (36 inches).  

Construction Issues:  

1.  Length of silk band.  A wrap-around apron dress is typically going to be at least 10 inches longer than the wearer's widest torso measurement.  Should the silk band wrap the entire top length?  Should it leave the mitered corners free?  It does not appear that the silk strip in grave 464 at Birka had silk lapped over the mitered corner.  I am inclined to have the band stop just short of the corners, because the way I would think to do it there would be no need of the silk there to join the linen to the wool.

2.   Double fold the silk?  In other words, would the edge of the silk be folded inward at the point where the band was stitched to the top of the apron dress on either the outside or the inside (as a modern piece of bias tape is often folded)?  I think it would make sense to do things this way, unless I find out that information from grave 464 dictates otherwise before I start sewing.

3.  Miter all corners?  It seems reasonable to do so.  I would place the linen and wool together, wrong sides touching, and miter the corners together that way.  This would also serve to protect the sides.

4.  Enclose linen in corners/sides?  Yes (see above).

Now that I've done more of the planning, I need to make certain I can lay my hands on enough linen to complete the plan.  I'll post again when I have the fabric lined up.


  1. wait, there's a mitered corner? How did I miss that little tidbit of information? (I'm currently writing a paper on Viking Aprons, and I'd love to have a nsource for that if you don't mind.)

  2. It's possible I've misunderstood the term "mitered", or that I've misunderstood Hilde Thunem's translation of Inga Hägg's Kvinnodräkten i Birka, which is what I based my comment upon. Hilde translated part of that text as follows: "The grave contains several other fragments of the dark blue wool. One that seems to have been torn off from the brooch fragment is folded along two sides, creating a corner about 4 cm outside of the edge of the brooch (464:5)." Hilde's full essay can be found at the following URL; the portion about Birka grave 464 is near the top of the essay. http://urd.priv.no/viking/smokkr.html

  3. nods. I love Hilde's page!! I guess it was the next sentence that threw me "It is unclear whether the vertical edge of this corner was hemmed or if it was fastened to another piece of the smokkr." And that little figure makes it look like it's attached to another piece of the smokkr. I'm going to go have a gander at the online Stolpe database and see if that fragment is pictured -- not that I'd be able to tell much about it. (oh, and I just sent you a friend requesdt -- it's ok if you choose to decline!)