This is the webpage of a group whose aim is to improve the kit and clothes of a UK seventeenth century Civil War reenactment group, using the most up to date references and research. Feel free to comment on any of the subjects raised here and return often as I want to keep the discussion lively and ongoing.

Please look at the extra tabs on the right hand side. The newbie section is the place for basic kit if you're just beginning to reenact the 1640s. Haberdashery has lots of detail about colours, buttons, tapes etc.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

How to Make Your Own Shirt (or one for someone else!)


   Cut it out. The pattern (fig. 1) shows how to cut the basic pieces from 10 feet of authentic width fabric. Most modern linen cloth is twice as wide so you’ll need to work it out a bit, though exact measurements aren’t strictly needed. Match the pieces to you, sleeves to your arm length etc. Solid lines are cuts, dotted ones represent folds
·     Sew in shoulder gussets (fig. 2). Open out the side neck openings and attach a triangular gusset on each side. This will provide strength to the shoulder seams.
·     Roll over the raw neck edges and hem to finish them off. Either sew on a small square patch on the inside at the bottom or add a thread bar strengthened with buttonhole stitch an inch or so up to prevent the neck ripping open.
·     Sew the sleeve gusset (AB) (fig. 3), and then join the sleeve edges together to make the sleeve, leaving the last 3 inches or so open (fig. 4). To do this, match point D to point J, H to B, and E to F, leaving the last few inches unstitched for a cuff opening. If you made the gusset a proper square it will work. Hem and neaten these raw edges as you did on the neck. Do another sleeve.
·     Fix the sleeves to the body: match the top of the sleeve to the top of shoulder, and then sew in using a run and fell seam from the bottom point of the gusset (C) up and around the shoulder, down past the other side of the gusset and continue the side seam to 12 inches or so above the bottom of the shirt. Hopefully when you get back to C, the two halves of the shirt body will join up evenly. Same again for the second sleeve/side.
·     Hem and finish off the remaining parts of the side seams and around the bottom.
·     Measure up the collar length to match your neck measurement, and about four inches or so wide. Fold in half lengthways and sew the ends leaving the bottom part unfinished. This leaves you with a long pocket to contain the remaining raw edges of the shirt.  Gather these raw edges to fit the collar, either simply or if there's lots of linen to gather, use a running stitch with heavy thread to help you gather neatly. Then sew on the collar, stitches going through both sides of the collar and through the shirt body. It will now look like a shirt that will fit a normal person rather than a weird tent.
·     Make 2 cuffs in the same way as the collar and attach one to each sleeve, gathering the fullness of the sleeve into the cuffs.
·     Make eyelet holes on either side of the collar and both cuffs for inserting ties to secure. Or just sew on some nice linen tapes.
·     The shirt is finished. Either give yourself a pat on the back or send me a mail because it hasn’t worked!
·     Linen unravels quickly from the edge if it isn't finished so I would recommend using french or flat felled seams to make the shirt. Google it!