12 February 2017

Historical Sew Monthly 2017: #2 Re-make

The February challenge for this year's Historical Sew Monthly challenge is "Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion". Luckily, I had something in the works that perfectly fitted that challenge:

A 'Martebo' sack.
This sack is based on research done by Peter of Albrechts Bossor, reproducing a sack seen on a carving in Martebo Church, Gotland, Sweden. Several other re-enactors have made similar sacks and written about them, including Maria of In Deme Jare Christi and Johan of Exploring the Medieval Hunt. There are also a number of late medieval images of similar sacks listed on Larsdatter

All of the other bloggers made their sacks in heavy-weight linen or (for the 18th C stuff) cotton. However, I live in Wales. It rains. a. lot. I frequently have to leave my kit on damp grass while we make or break camp. Linen wicks water like nobody's business. So, I wanted a woolen sack.

I started out with a single-bed-sized woolen blanket that I inherited stole from my mum's house. This is a very pale grey with a lot of mottled black bits and a random one-thread black stripe down the centre. It's a medium weight, as blankets go, and woven in tabby weave. The first thing I needed to do was take off the modern red binding at top and bottom:

Removing the modern red "silk" binding.
Once this was done, I had to decide on a pattern. I wanted something that was very fabric-efficient, ideally involving no cutting whatsoever (just in case my mum ever wanted her blanket back!). Having looked about, I found that the 'Martebo' sack was very similar to a bag used by 18th C re-enactors which is typically referred to as a 'market wallet'.

This therefore gave me two possible patterns:

Left: the pattern used by makers of the 'Martebo' sack.
Right: the pattern used by makers of the 18th C 'market wallet'.
I chose the pattern on the right-hand side, with the opening let into the long central seam. I felt that in this way the opening (the most delicate part) would only get tension put on it when taking items in/out of the bag, not also when the bag was carried. I felt the left-hand design would be more liable to having the opening gape and, possibly, rip.

This decided, I sewed the long central seam with a whip stitch, selvage to selvage, leaving the gap for the opening:
Whip stitch of selvages, using waxed linen thread and a reproduction brass needle.
I then sewed the two ends shut using a fine backstitch. I chose this stitch because I wanted this to be a very strong seam.
Back-stitch seam, again using waxed linen thread.
Note pulled thread ends, to get a straight edge.
I then further reinforced this seam by felling the seam allowances to one side.

Whip-stitched felling. You can also see the black thread that runs
down the centre of the blanket, making a narrow central stripe.
Theoretically, this was now done! Hooray! I attempted to show my husband how it worked and we shoved some sofa pillows into it to make it fill out and see how it fitted. Erm, and the seam promptly ripped out on one end of the opening. Drat!

Ripped portion. As the seam only really went over one or two threads
of selvage, this was a weak point and although my stitching held, the
fabric ripped. :(
I sewed this seam back in place, making the opening a bit bigger for good measure. I then wanted to reinforce the opening. I tried a binding made from a strip of on-grain undyed linen fabric approx. 1 1/2" wide. This was the second mistake. I sewed it on whilst very tired and was lazy and did not pin it all first. This is what happened...

Ugh. Ugly, ripply, stretched-out opening. Blech.
In case you didn't think that was too bad, here's a photo from the side.

Yeeeees. OMG, it's bad.
I asked the lovely people on the HSF Facebook page for advice. The first few people suggested attacking it with an iron and plenty of steam. I did so and it did ... exactly nothing. I confess then to losing my patience with it, not waiting for more suggestions and just attacking it with a stitch ripper.

I replaced the fabric binding with a facing using 9mm undyed linen tape. This, I liked a lot better. I also did it properly and pinned it all out first and sewed it when I wasn't half asleep. I added a bit extra to reinforce each end of the opening, too.

Still not perfect, but *way* better than the first time!
See, I can sew(!).
Detail of reinforcement at one end. You can also see the running stitches I
put in here over the ripped portion to ensure it stayed in place and did not rip again.
(This is 100% invisible on the outside.)
The whole bag, right-side out. The opening is nearly invisible!
The bag in use (again full of pillows).
This time, the opening was really sturdy and I
didn't have to be delicate with it whatsoever.

The Challenge: Re-make, Re-use, Re-fashion

The Material: one single-bed-sized pale-grey wool blanket

Pattern: adapted from various bloggers' market wallet patterns

Year: late medieval ish (to be used for 1370s re-enactment)

Notions: linen thread; beeswax; approx. 47" x 9mm-wide undyed linen tape, leftover from another project.

How historically accurate is it? the fabric is ... ok ... although the black flecks are not great and I have no proof for woolen bags other than conjecture; sewing wool with waxed linen thread is documentable for the time (although there's no direct evidence for this on bags); the pattern is a reasonable conjecture; the sewing techniques... again, reasonable conjecture ... 70%?

Hours to complete: hh, dear god ... far, far too many. This was supposed to be a quick project!

First worn: well, first tested today but won't be properly used til summer and re-enactment season.

Total cost: none to me, but if you bought it all maybe up to £40 for the blanket (if second-hand) or for similar wool fabric (if you know where to buy), a couple of £ for tape, similar for a spool of linen thread plus wax.

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