Paned or “Puff and Slash” German Sleeves: One Method For a Less Frayed, More Complete Look


paned-sleeve-tutorialPaned or “slashed” sleeves are seen on many German Renaissance garments. The simplest method of achieving this effect is to simply cut your sleeve material in straight lines (on the bias) and then bunch the fabric up onto your arm. I’ve done this with the red wool on my black tie-on sleeves. But, I wasn’t entirely pleased with it. The sleeve would slip down on my arm, unbunching, and was generally a nuisance. I’ve since attached some twill tape to the inside of the sleeve, near the seam line, to keep the  slashes bunched together, but it still is not ideal. Despite the fact that the wool is well-washed (so slightly felted) and cut on the bias, it still wants to fray enough to feel “messy” to me. None of the paintings show fraying. Maybe the artists didn’t paint it in, or maybe the slashes were more finished. It’s hard to say.

Since then, I’ve experimented with another way of creating this sleeve. Several of the paintings show outlines on either side of the panes, as if they are lined with another color of fabric. Some paintings also appear to have added the panes, rather than simply slashed them from the sleeve fabric. I’ve also seen at least one extant garment where the white undershirt is “faked” — a fabric panel was placed inside the panes to give the appearance of an undershirt. These observations have led me to this particular method of creating paned sleeves. It’s considerably more time consuming and labor intensive, but the results look very polished and you don’t have to worry about where your sleeve is at any given time. There’s no fraying, all panes are lined, and the “pouf” of the white fabric underneath is built in. I really quite like it and I pass it along to you in the event it is helpful.

What You Need:

  • Your sleeve pattern (with a sleeve cap patterned in)
  • Enough fashion fabric to make at least four sleeves
  • About a yard of a second, medium-weight contrasting fabric — avoid anything too light or too heavy
  • About a yard of white linen
  • Trim, braid, tape, or extra contrast fabric
  • Scissors, thread, needle

How to Make the Paned Sleeve:

1. Cut out four sleeves from your fashion fabric and two sleeves in a white, lightweight cotton or linen. Be mindful of where the front and back of your sleeve is, as a good sleeve pattern is not symmetrical. I like to make a mark on the fabric (to remind me later) when I cut if it’s not immediately obvious.

2. Take two of the fashion fabric sleeves (a left and a right) and cut them horizontally where your want your groupings of panes to appear. For example, it’s common to have three groupings — top of sleeve (sleeve cap), middle of sleeve (elbow), and bottom of sleeve (a bit above wrist area).SleevePattern2

3. Cut your sleeve segments into equally-sized vertical strips. I recommend they be between 1.5″ and 2″ in width, but in general you want to cut them a bit wider than you wish your finished pane to be. Note: For the top panes of a sleeve, you’ll find it more comfortable if you only have them on the sleeve cap, which means they won’t be under your arm. As that’s a bit more complicated, I’ll show how to do that in the photos below. Here you can see the top of my sleeve (the sleeve cap) plus some additional length, cut into 2″ strips.


You can see where this piece came from in the sleeve in this diagram:


4.  Now cut out a piece of your contrasting fabric (in my case, it was velvet) that is about 50% wider. Cut it into the same number of strips as you did in step 3, which means you should end up with slightly wider strips than your fashion fabric strips.


5. Put your fashion fabric strips on top of your contrasting fabric strips, right sides together.


6. Sew 3/8″ from the edge along one side of the strips:paned-sleeve-pane-sew

7. Turn the strip 180°, line up the unsewn edges of the strip, and sew down the other side:


Your sewn strip will have a D shape because the contrasting fabric is wider. Here’s a close-up view so you can see what I mean:


8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 to sew all the strips. Then turn them all right side out (watch my video to learn how my technique to do this if you do not have a tube turner). Iron them flat so that the contrasting fabric shows equally on either side.


9. Cut a piece of white, lightweight cotton or linen in the shape you want your panes to appear on your shoulder, plus 1/2″ for seam allowance (so you may keep a little bit under the arms as it will later be hidden/removed in the seam allowance). I like to put a curve in the sleeve cap as I think it looks more flattering than a straight line PLUS I’ve seen that in period portraits. We will call this the pane foundation. Here’s a diagram of what I mean:


10. Now cut out a piece of the same white fabric, but bigger and longer than your sleeve cap. This will become the pouf inside your panes. So the larger, the more poofier. For your sanity, I recommend you don’t go too big — it’ll be hard to fit it in. Here was my pouf panel.


11. Lay out your pane foundation and your pane poof on the table, then lay the middle pane on top, lining up top edges. If your fabric has a pattern, as mine did, be sure you’re putting the correct pane in the correct way! Now pin them together at the very top, just inside the seam allowance.


12. Continue laying your panes across the fabric, but pinch or fold the pouf panel fabric as you go and then pin the panes and panel down to the foundation. Your goal is to have a little extra fabric for each pane you place, so that the fabric wants to peak out from between the panes. Don’t fold too much in, or you won’t have enough when you get to the last pane on either end — you want at least a couple of inches left. Here are my panes with the pane fabric folded between them.


13. Flip all but the center pane out of the way, like in the picture below.


14. Fold or push up the white pouf fabric so that the bottom lines up with the bottom of your foundation fabric. Then position the pane where you want it sew the bottom edge down and pin in place. Your goal is to have your pane gently arc over the pouf. You may want to pin and experiment with how it looks on your sleeve before sewing down.


15. Continue pinning all panes over and through the pouf fabric and foundation fabric, remembering to fold/pinch the fabric slightly in between the panes as well.


16. If your panes will have multiple curves, pin your panes down how want them to ultimately appear, as I did in the photo below.


17. Now trim your panes so they are flush with the top and bottom edges of your pane foundation and sew where you’ve pinned.


18. Now position and pin the material you plan to edge your panes, such as a trim, braid, tape, etc. I made strips of fabric from the brown velveteen and put a simple chain stitch in gold thread on top of it.


19. Now position and pin the pane to your sleeve and sew down:

20. Repeat as necessary for any other paning, such as at the elbow or wrist (common places to see it). If you position paning lower on the sleeve, where it will go the full circumference of the sleeve, be sure to leave enough fabric at the edges (especially your pouf material) so that when you sew the seam on your sleeve, your paned section is seamed neatly with the pouf material overlapping but the panes not overlapping. This can be a little tricky, but if you leave enough material, you can fiddle with it until you get it right.

Here are pictures of various paned sleeves I’ve made so you can put all this into perspective:

Paned sleeves on my pink damask gown:





Paned sleeves on Baroness Katayoun’s saxon court gown:


Lower sleeve

Lower sleeve


Saxon court gown on my dress form (different size than gown)

Saxon court gown on my dress form (different size than gown)


Green sleeves for a lightweight linen camp dress (in this case, the panes are just narrow red linen tubes, ironed flat):



Pink and Brown 1515 German Dress (Or, the “Chocolate-Covered Strawberry” Gown)

PinkDamaskBrownVelvet1515Several years ago I purchased 8 yards of beautiful pink damask fabric in 100% cotton. On a separate fabric buying trip, I found a lovely shade of brown velveteen, also 100% cotton. I held onto both, waiting for just the right way to use these yummy fabrics. Little did I know I’d wake up one morning with the bright idea to use the pink damask and brown velveteen TOGETHER to make a style of German dress I’d yet to try. The result was delicious! Gregor calls it my chocolate-covered strawberry gown.

The gown style is a bit unusual. We see the brustfleck (that’s the panel with the pearls across the chest) paired with an open-bodiced gown, popularized by Lucas Cranach paintings. But it’s much more unusual to see the brustfleck with a bodice that is lower cut yet still closed and with vertical guards below. Bernhard Strigel’s “Portrait of a Woman” (1510-1515) depicts a style similar to this, though the sleeves are plainer. So I was excited when I found examples of the brustfleck, low bodice, and slashed sleeves in a watercolor made by an unknown artist in 1515 Germany! Here is the inspirational watercolor:


Here’s a closer look at the women in the foreground:


Before I get into the specifics of the dress, I’d like to talk about the myth that “pink is not period.” Dear reader, if you think pink is not period, please allow me to attempt to change your mind. I addressed this issue back when I made my first garb years ago, too. Pink is easily achievable with period dyes, such as that made from madder root. The pink of my dress looks very much like a madder pink — it isn’t quite so bright nor deep as seen in the the photos on this page (it doesn’t photograph well). But, just in case you are in doubt as to whether German ladies enjoyed pink gowns, I point out this detail from the same watercolor shown above:


I color-corrected an image of the fabric to give you a better idea of how it appears to the eye rather than the camera:


Details of the Gown

The pattern for my pink and brown damask dress was adapted from my tried and true Dorothea Meyer gown (see pattern), with modified straps that came further in (closer to the neck) and a lowered neckline. I brought the straps in closer because the gown doesn’t appear to sit off the shoulder, as many of the other German gowns of this time period do, and the slashed sleeve cap is quite high up on the arm. The bodice is three layers — damask, cotton canvas, and linen lining — which are flatlined together to give a smooth, stable shape. The skirt is the same rectangular construction with 24 rolled pleats which follow the pattern in the damask (I actually tried 48 pleats first, but it did not look right).

The brustfleck is a band of brocade that is wide enough to lie under the bodice, which keeps it in place without the need for pins (though pins help to keep it from sliding down into the bodice over time). It is lined with white linen and has real pearls sewn on it — but I think it could use more pearls! I had a problem finding good, round pearls in consistent sizes, which made it heard to apply them in neat lines and curves (see my tutorial on applying them smoothly). The little red heart-shaped gem sewn in the middle of it was a token left for me at an arts and sciences display — thank you to whomever gave it to me!


The sleeves have paning at the top and the elbow, with a separate foresleeve and a velvet conical cuff. I’m writing up a tutorial on how to make paned sleeves in the manner I do, so watch for that!


The hat is made from the same brown velveteen. It’s essentially a large cap with a wide, two piece brim that is put up, sewn in place, and slashed a couple of times. I’m happy to go into more detail on the hat if anyone wants to know how I made it. The feathers are curled ostrich feathers — there are about a dozen, but I think it could use a dozen more. The cap underneath is my pearl and silk goldhaube that I made last year — this was my first opportunity to wear it with an appropriate style of gown.


Other side of the hat:


And here I am wearing it at Val Day on February 15:



I treat my gowns as unfinished works because I enjoy adding on to them later. Things I’d like to here include adding another brown velvet guard to the bottom of the skirt, making fancier foresleeves with paning, adding more pearls to the brustfleck, and more feathers to the hat. I also have some fixes: more hooks and eyes on the front of the bodice, shorter/tighter foresleeves (they kept wanting to slide down my arm even with a small tie at the elbow), and a repair to hem. Additionally, I think the velvet guard needs some training as it doesn’t like to curve along with the fabric — the velvet is actually pretty thick and heavy. Oh, and I need a fancy gold belt — Gregor is going to help with that.

I was inspired to get this gown finished by Val Day thanks to the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge, and here is the information for that challenge:

PinkDamaskBrownVelvet1515The Challenge: Pink!

Fabric: Damask and Velveteen

Pattern: One of my own creation

Year: 1515

Notions: Gold thread (sewn in a chain stitch around the sleeve bands), hooks and eyes, freshwater pearls

How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I can get based on my interpretations of available data, the modern fabrics (the damask and velvet would have been silk, not cotton), and that some seams were machine sewn (though there’s still a fair amount of hand sewing, too).

Hours to complete: About 30

First worn: February 15, 2014

Total cost: $200

If anyone has questions or just wants to chat about the style, time period, fabrics, or anything, please leave a message or get in tough with me — I love to talk German!

Did the Christmas Tree originate in Renaissance Germany?

xmastreeartistunknownRecently I set out to find the truth (or lack thereof) behind the infamous German Christmas pickle (Weihnachtsgurke) tradition. Never heard of it? Well, the story goes that Germans liked to hide a pickle in their Christmas tree and the first person to find it on Christmas morning would receive an extra present or good fortune in the new year. Here in Michigan, we have a town known as the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. I don’t personally have one of these pickles, but I wanted to know the real history behind this interesting tradition.

As it turns out, I cannot find any evidence that the Christmas pickle was actually hidden in Christmas trees in Germany. It appears to be an American German (or perhaps American Dutch) legend/tradition. But, as it happens, I did discover something much more interesting … Christmas trees themselves may have originated in Renaissance Germany in the 16th, or perhaps even the 15th century!

Today the city of Strasbourg is located at the modern-day border of Germany and France, but in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire. Strausbourg has always been known for its magnificent Christmas tree in the center of town, but how far back do Christmas trees go? In the town’s account of 1546, two men were fined 3 shillings because they “cut trees for Christmas.” The account book for 1549-1565 contains a ruling of the Town’s Council created on Wednesday Dec. 17, 1555: “Nobody is allowed to have a Xmas tree except with punishment.” And in January 1557, the forester of Kinsheim received “2 shillings to guard, and 2 shillings to cut Christmas trees.”

Need more proof? Let’s go back a bit farther. A guild of German merchants from Lubeck, Germany erected a house called the House of Blackheads in Riga. In the Blackhead’s Brotherhood Fraternity archives of 1510, there is detailed accounts of a winter tradition of a Christmas tree, and it refers to earlier  account of it 1476. The accounts mention that the tree was decorated with ribbons, dried flowers, straw dolls, and possibly fruit. There is a plaque in the square that read, “The First New Years Tree in Riga in 1510.” Now while this happened in Riga, which is in current-day Latvia, the custom was written down by Germans in Old German, so that’s still German to me.

There’s also the account of Martin Luther (1483-1546), who is erroneously credited with having the first Christmas tree. Clearly, he is not, but he may have popularized it. The story goes that Martin Luther was walking through the forest one day and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. The sight was so beautiful that he went home and put up a tree with candles in its branches for his children.

There are also accounts of a 1521 image that shows a tree being paraded through the streets with a man riding a horse behind it. The man is dressed a bishop, possibly representing St. Nicholas. I am still searching for an image that fits this description. The woodcut linked above is by an unknown artist.

The truth is that the Christmas tree’s origins are likely to be earlier in history, but are shrouded in mystery. There is a legend that Germanic tribes worshiped an oak tree that represented Thor. When Boniface (675-754), a Christian, cut down Thor’s tree and nothing bad happened, the people began to worship God instead. Boniface declared an evergreen tree to be the symbol of Christianity. I’ve heard varying versions of this legend, but as with many stories, there is probably a grain of truth in there.

What does seem clear (to me) is that tradition of putting up and decorating a coniferous tree around Christmas probably began in the Germanic region. It seems likely it evolved from other traditions, but in the end, it makes sense. A tree that remains green all year would have special significance in Northern Europe during the dark months of winter, especially around the winter solstice and its shortest day of the year (Dec. 21 or 22).

I have more research to do, and I’m sadly lacking primary source citations for anything here, but as I find them, I will add them. But for now, I must go out with my family and cut down a stout Christmas tree. I think we might even hide a pickle in it this year!

Enjoy your tannenbaum and happy holidays!

When I Don’t Know the Answer… (Or, The Case of the Pearl Necklace)

IDontKnow4I usually blog about my projects, but today I want to discuss KNOWLEDGE and lack thereof. On three separate occasions this weekend — one in person, two online — I was asked a question for which I did not have an answer. I notice this is happening more and more frequently. I don’t think it’s my swiss-cheese memory coming into play so much as that I’m writing and teaching classes a lot these days, so asking me questions seems natural.

I have to be honest here. It’s HARD not knowing an answer to something. I love being a source of information for others, in both my hobby and my career. In fact, I thrive on it. There’s a special thrill in being able to answer a question with confidence and plenty of delicious details.

But because I love knowledge so very much, that is precisely why it’s so important to acknowledge when I don’t know the answer to something. Plus, if I made the grave error of just guessing, and my guess were wrong, trust would be an issue. Trust is very important.

And as much as I love knowing the answer, I feel horrible about leading anyone astray.

Even given all this, I still find it hard to simply say, “I don’t know.”

Our culture does not reward those who “do not know.” Teachers mark us down. Employers file bad reports. Customers scoff. And in my case, readers stop reading and listeners stop listening. When I remarked once on a podcast that “I don’t know,” I got a flood of e-mail telling me that if I was going to talk about something on the air, I should KNOW.

I really think it okay to not know, though. It’s okay to admit it. In fact, it’s not just okay, it’s crucial.

But, I must confess. To appease my ego, I will say, “I don’t know, but … I know someone to ask,” or “Wow, that is a great question — now I’m really curious myself.” And off I go to look around, check the museums, and ask other people.

That’s right. Questions are my gateway drug.

For when I realize there’s a question I don’t have an answer for, but that I know an answer must exist somewhere, I find it rather fun. It’s like a scavenger hunt and I must find the answer!

Speaking of which, here’s one of the questions I didn’t know the answer to this weekend: “Were pearl necklaces strung before 1600 knotted between each pearl?” I don’t know much about jewelry, but I looked about and found this:

Detail of a pearl necklace drawing by Arnold Lulls (1560)

Detail of a pearl necklace drawing by Arnold Lulls (1560)

It sure looks to me like those would be string/silk knots between the pearls, don’t you think? It doesn’t look like metal or anything else to me. This image is from an an album of jewellery designs by Arnold Lulls, a Dutch jewelry designer who moved to London (source: Victoria & Albert Museum, D.6:16-1896). In that same album, there’s a simpler string of pearls (no pendant) and it also clearly looks knotted to me.

Does anyone reading this know of an extant necklace with knots between the pearls?

Remember, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” (Though there’s no rule that says you have to post it!)

German Tellerbarret Make-and-Take Class This Saturday, November 2 at RUM

1014179_488627497895897_898210308_nThis Saturday I’ll be teaching my German Tellerbarret Make-and-Take Class at RUM (Royal University of the Midrealm) from 11-1 pm. This year, Royal University of the Midrealm is located at Cleveland Central Catholic High School and St. Stanislaus Church Social Hall, 6550 Baxter Ave., Cleveland, OH 44105 — there is a $12 entry fee ($17 for non-members). If you’re not an SCA member or otherwise familiar with the SCA, this event is open to the public — we just ask that all participants make an attempt at pre-17th century clothing. There are more than 100 classes this Saturday, all are free and some have low-cost material fees. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn something new!

Here is the official class description for my German Tellerbarret class:

A hands-on German hat-making experience! Students will view several examples of different *Tellerbarret* hat styles and constructions, then be instructed in creating their own hat — complete with slashing, if desired. No experience is necessary. Students will cut, slash, and sew their own hats. These hats work great for keeping your face shaded at outdoor events! Please bring your own scissors. Handout limit: 30. Materials limit: 5 ($10) or BYO materials: 36″x55″ (one yard) of wool + 24″x24″ (2 sq. ft.) of wool or linen in contrasting color.


Making hats!

Making hats!

For those interested in taking my class this weekend, please know that this class was very popular at Pennsic, much to my surprise. 20 or more people showed up, even though I only had materials for 5. Three people actually ran out to the marketplace and bought wool on the spot so they could take the class. I don’t know if it will also be so popular at RUM, but if this class is important to you, I urge you to bring your own wool — then you do not have to worry about not having what you need. Remember you need 36″x55″ (one yard) of wool + 24″x24″ (2 sq. ft.) of wool or linen in contrasting color.

There are other things you can bring so you don’t have to share with others, such as a measuring tape, needle, and thread. And don’t forget your fabric scissors!

Additionally, there’s one thing you can do at home before you arrive to maximize your time in the class slashing and sewing your hat: Make the hat band. Here’s what to do:

1. Cut out a 10″ x 76″ strip of wool (you’ll probably need to piece two strips together to get it this long — just make sure you are left with a square of wool at least 24″ x 24″ for the top of your hat. Below is a cutting diagram for your yard of wool to help you visualize what I mean).

cutting-diagram2. Sew a 1/2″ casing — with a strong braid or cord inside it — along one edge of your wool strip. Leave the ends of the braid or cord hanging out either end of the casing.

If you do not have time to make this strip with the casing and cord, don’t fret — it can be done during the class. Just keep in mind you may not be able to completely finish the hat during class if the hat band is not ready to go.

Any questions, comments, or concerns before or after the class, please contact me at genoveva (dot) von [dot) lubeck (at) gmail [dot] com.

Honeycomb Pleatwork Apron Tutorial Video

As I promised my students at Coronation and the folks on the German Renaissance Facebook page, I’ve made a short video of how to make do simple honeycomb pleatwork. This is made from the video I took while I was making the white apron with the 1″ pleats, so it’s quite easy and I was able to complete it in one hour.

Because I didn’t think anyone actually wanted to watch a one hour video, I sped up the sections on marking the dots, sewing the running stitches, and the actual pleating. But if you need to see something closer, you can pause the video. I recommend you also download the instructional booklet and use that in conjunction with this video. You’ll find the dot templates on the Patterns page.

I hope this little video allows many folks to create their own aprons! They are lots of fun to make and wear, and appropriate for many time periods and places.

Video Information: This video shows how do honeycomb smocking (a.k.a. pleatwork). Watch as I take a 55″ wide piece of linen, pleat it into 1″ folds, then create the honeycomb pattern. Add a strip of linen to the top and you have a functional, pretty apron completed in on hour. I’ve sped up most of the parts of the video for your sanity, but you can pause if you need to see something in detail. A downloadable booklet with step-by-step instructions on creating the honeycomb apron are at, as are dot templates ranging from one inch (very large) down to 1/4 inch (small). German Renaissance music pieces performed by Jim Sayles and used here with permission — see Video Length: 7:04

Mary of Hapsburg’s Hemd: Chemise Pleatwork and Pattern Darning Notes

Detail of the pattern darning on Mary's chemise

Detail of the pattern darning on Mary’s chemise

One of the few extant pieces of early 16th century female garb (1521) remaining today is Mary of Hapsburg’s wedding dress. Mary was the granddaughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian. The gown and chemise are housed in the Hungarian National Museum. The hemd (chemise) may or may not go with the gown (according to museum docents), but it is believed that the hemd is from the 16th century. I suspect that this hemd does go with the gown, or at least one very like it, for there exists a stove tile from 1490 which depicts a similar gown with a similar hemd. I don’t think a brustfleck would necessarily be worn with this gown either, as we have more pictorial evidence that it was not worn.

If you’re interested in making this hemd, first you need the cutting diagram. Credit for the cutting diagram goes to József Höllrigl (did an analysis in 1929), Mária V. Ember (wrote an article in 1962), Julia Palotay Szent-Györgyi (translated article and cutting diagram), and Cynthia Virtue. For more information on the attributions, see

Detail of the cutting diagram showing the hemd pattern

Detail of the cutting diagram showing the hemd pattern (click to view original image)

Important note on above diagram: The three panels are NOT cut out as trapezoids; they are cut out as rectangles. They only become trapezoidal after the pleating.

From Maria Ember’s 1962 article, “The blouse’s front and back are each made of three trapezoidal pieces. The pieces are 40 cm wide at the top, 60 cm at the bottom. They’re attached to each other with 1 cm wide lines of silver embroidery in a blanket stitch. The two sides are widened further by two triangular gores, each 60 cm wide. The three front panels are gathered to a width of 21 cm, forming the front of the neckline. The gathered section is about 6 cm wide [Ed: I think they mean "deep" ie, width of smocking embroidery], secured by geometric satin-stitch embroidery in silver thread. The back sections are also gathered to 21 cm, with embroidery 1 cm narrower than on the front. The long, full sleeves are also assembled from three pieces attached to each other with silver blanket stitch. The sleeves are straight rectangles, 65 cm long, 122 cm wide, with the top sections gathered to 28 cm, and forming the sides of the neckline. The embroidery securing the gathers is only 3 cm wide. The neckline is enclosed in a 3 cm wide band. The wide sleeves are gathered to 24 cm at the wrist, sewn to a 1.5 cm wide cuff. The gathers are decorated with narrow silver embroidery in an interlocking half-circle pattern. The underarm gussets are 25 cm squares. The shirt’s material is a closely woven fine evenweave linen.”

I should note that there is some debate on the chemise and its pattern on the SCA-Garb Yahoo group, as seen here:

Once you have the hemd, you need the pattern for the pleatwork at the top. Glynnis Hollindale patterned the pattern darning on the pleatwork, and she’s given me permission to share it with you here. (Many thanks, Glynnis!)

Original pattern with fylfots

Original pattern with fylfots


Glynnis has three patterns for the pleats, along with notes on materials, pleat size, and stitch size:

  1. The original pattern at the top of the hemd (with fylfots): GHMaryofHapsburgfrontpatternV1.0
  2. An alternate pattern for the top of the hemd (no flyfots): GHMaryofHapsburgalternatefrontpatternoptionsV1.1
  3. An option for the sleeve cuff (which she could not see): GHMaryofHapsburgsleeveoption2009

To learn more about pattern darning over pleatwork, check out the fall 2006 newsletter of the Needleworkers Guild in the Kingdom of the West, which has a whole issue on pattern darning!

My first attempt at Mary’s pattern is this apron, which is still in progress:

In-progress pattern darning over pleatwork

In-progress pattern darning over pleatwork

The biggest issue with my first attempt above is that the pleats are too deep and, thus, the apron is quite narrow. I think I have 1/4″ or 1/2″ pleats here, but they really should be more like 1/8″. The pleat depth didn’t effect the pattern darning, but it’s just a lot of material. This is fine if you have a lot of material that you want to pleat into a small space, but that was not the case here.

I also found it challenging to keep the pleats from tightening together as I stitched, and that had a lot to do with how tightly I pulled my stitch; once I realized it wanted to tighten, I went easier on my pulling. It worked out, as you can see the pattern above clearly and I don’t seen a variation between the top and the bottom width of the design.

The above pleatwork was just an exercise; I have no current plans to recreate this particular hemd.

If anyone out there makes a hemd after this pattern, I’d love to see it!



How to Apply Pearls and Beads in Smooth Lines

Brocade and pearls for the brustfleck

Brocade and pearls for the brustfleck

German women in the 16th century were partial to putting pearls on their garments and accessories. My research indicates that this has a lot to do with the fact that pearl-producing mussels (pearlenmuschel) flourished in the Saxon streams and rivers of Germany in the 16th century5. Unio margaritfera is the principal pearl-bearing mussel in this part of the world. The pearls produced were divided into three classes (first, second and third) and it is the third class that by far most pearls fell into. These pearls were known as sandperlen, and though of poorer quality, they had sufficient whiteness and luster to be used an ornaments. Unforunately, Saxon pearls are nearly unknown today due to the widespread destruction of the habitat by pollution. I like to substitute either small glass pearls (when I need regularity) or small (3mm) natural freshwater pearls (when I need the real thing).

If you apply pearls in a straight line, you have more options — for my goldhaube, I experimented with both couching down a strung line of pearls and with applying each pearl individually (see my goldhaube documentation for more details). But when you want to apply pearls in curves that flow naturally and smoothly, these techniques are fraught with issues. So as part of my Artisan Quest, I asked Mistress Melisant how she beads and she taught me a wonderful technique. I used it on the brustfleck for Katayoun’s Saxon court gown and it worked perfectly. The pearls remained in lovely curves, even when the brustfleck was being worn.

What You Need:

  • Good beads – To get the best effect, be sure you use evenly-sized beads or pearls. If your freshwater pearls are slightly different shapes and sizes (as they often are), take the time to sort and organize the pearls by size before you begin. Also be wary of using beads that are too large, as it will be harder to turn corners. I recommend a size close to 3 mm.
  • Milliner’s Needle – A long, thin needle (thin enough to pass through your bead), such as a milliner’s needle, works best.
  • Thread – If your pearls have smooth holes (which they probably do), use regular sewing silk or polyester thread (avoid cotton, which swells). I like silk — you can get the Gutermann brand at JoAnns.
  • Beeswax – Use it to wax your thread before beading.
  • Material – I’ve used silk, brocade and linen. Consider how stiff you want your finished piece to be and if you should back your material with linen or something stiffer, like buckram. (The brocade for the brustfleck was backed with linen.)
  • Hoop or Frame – It’s easier to bead when your material is tensioned properly in a hoop or slate frame. (I used a circular hoop for the brustfleck.)

How to Bead:

1. Prepare your material and tension it as needed with a hoop or frame. Cut off an 24-36″ length of thread and wax and iron it. Put the thread through the eye of your needle, double it, and secure the end with a double knot. Put your beads in a bowl.

Beads, needle, and waxed thread ready to go.

Beads, needle, and waxed thread ready to go.

2. Bring your needle up through your fabric, from back to front, where you’d like to begin beading. Some beaders make three small stitches at this starting point in the fabric to keep the thread secured (I did this with my goldhaube). Mistress Melisant says she doesn’t bother with this starting technique and it all works out for her. (Note: I neglected to take a photo of this step. Just picture a thread pulled up and through a piece of material.)

3. Pick up three beads with your needle — you will sort of “scoop” them up in the bowl. [Tip: Reader Ellen suggests using a soft cloth rather than a bowl to avoid having to chase the beads around!] You can use your thumb and forefinger to keep the beads on the needle as you scoop up all the beads you need.


4. Pull your beads down to the end of your thread, making sure they lay flat against your material and do not “bunch” or “bubble” up because they are too tight against one another.

Pull the beads down to the material

Pull the beads down to the material

5. Bring your needle and thread down at the end of the last bead, or even a touch beyond it (to avoid overcrowding and “bubbling”), and pull through.

Bring your needle down just beyond your third bead.

Bring your needle down just beyond your third bead.

6. Bring your needle up between the last and second-to-last beads and pull through your material.


7. Now insert your needle through the last bead’s hole and pull the thread through. This secures that third bead AND creates an anchor point for the next bead.

Bring your needle through the last bead.

Bring your needle through the last bead.


8. When your beads and thread look like this, you can repeat steps 3-7 to continue beading in long, flowing lines.

Ready to begin again!

Ready to begin again!



  • You don’t always have to do three beads at a time. Depending on your design and how tightly your curves are, you may want to do two, or even just one.
  • Watch carefully for your the dreaded “bubble” effect from beads that are just a bit too tight against one another. Don’t be afraid to back up and re-do the beads. I did it a number of times.
  • If you have a pearl that just doesn’t want to stay in the correct position (happens in tight curves), feel free to go back and couch it down into the right spot.
  • It’s a good idea to tie a knot in your thread up against the fabric every so often, to secure the beading in the event of breakage. It’s best to do it between steps 5 and 6.
Making a note in between steps 5 and 6.

Making a note in between steps 5 and 6.

Here is the finished piece. Note how the pearls remain in their lines even when the fabric isn’t flat.

Detail of the front

Detail of the front


Writing this tutorial makes me want to pearl more things!

German Landsknecht Beret (a.k.a. The Starfish Hat)

schlappe-red2Of the many hats worn by Germans in the 16th century, the beret — often called the Starfish hat by enthusiasts — is one of the more iconic. It’s nickname comes from the broad loops that are arrayed around the hat like, well, a starfish I suppose. Another version of the beret, known as the schlappe, has ear flaps as well. Some have a folded square upon the top; others are simply bag-like. Looking at the woodcuts, you’ll see a wide variety of styles, some of cloth, some of what may be thick felt or leather, and some that could be knitted. There were a lot of variations. I made a simple cloth version, which has no ear flaps and no square on top.

This beret was actually the very first specific German Landksnecht item I ever made, just one month after joining the SCA. Thankfully, it still passes my “reasonably authentic” test. It’s made of natural materials, hand-sewn, functions, fits, and is based on a woodcut from the correct era and place. Here’s my original reference image from Reislaufer Musicians by Urs Graf (1523).

Detail from Reislaufer Musicians by Urs Graf, 1523

Detail from Reislaufer Musicians by Urs Graf, 1523

So here’s how to make a simple German Ren beret in the “starfish style:”


  • 1 yard Medium to heavy-weight wool, fulled a bit in your washer/dryer/whatever
  • (optional) 1/2 yard of linen as a lining
  • Scissors, thread, needle, measuring tape


1. Measure the crown of your head (where you want your hat to lie), add one inch, and cut out a 3″ wide strip of wool in that length. Fold the top down and the bottom up, then fold in half lengthwise (like bias tape) and iron flat. This will become your headband.

2. Test the fit on your head, making a note of where the headband should be closed, then turn inside out and sew the two ends of the headband together at the appropriate place. Turn right side out again.

3. Cut 8 strips of 6″ x 8″ wool. Fold in half lengthwise (to become 3″ x 8″), stitch closed into a tube, then turn inside out. This will give you 8 tubes. Iron flat with the seam centered on one side of the tube, then fold in half width-wise.

4. Cut out a 16-18″ diameter circle (bigger = floppier), one each from wool and (optionally) linen. (Note: The hat top in my photo is composed of four sewn sections only because I didn’t have a large enough piece of wool to cut one large circle.)

5. Fit the circle(s) inside the fold of the headband, pin, and sew to the underside of the fold. I simply pinned small pleats in place to make it fit, but you could gather the wool before sewing to the headband if you preferred.

6. Pin the folded strips from step 2 around the circumference of your headband and circle, equally spaced and sandwiched between the headband and circle.

7. Now sew the headband closed, effectively sealing in the raw edges of the circle and strips. Voila!

Inside of the hat

Inside of the hat

It doesn’t take long to make one, so I recommend you use some scrap fabric and do a mock-up first. That way you can play with circle and strip sizes to achieve the look you want. Here’s my first version:

Mockup of hat

Mock-up of hat

And here’s the finished version — note that I made both the circle and the strips bigger:

Completed hat!

Completed hat!

Common colors for hats were black, blue, red, gray, blue, white, and green.

If you have questions, please let me know!

Honeycomb Pleatwork Apron Giveaway!

It’s my birthday! To celebrate, I am giving away a honeycomb pleatwork linen apron, in your choice of colors (white, gold, red, etc.) and your choice of sizes. I’ll make it just for you and ship it to you anywhere in the world.


Anyone can enter. To be in the running, go to the GermanRenaissance page on Facebook and comment or share the giveaway status (see link below) and let me know what color you’d prefer.


I will draw one name randomly on lucky October 13, 2013 at 9 pm ET and announce the winner on the German Renaissance Facebook page. Good luck!

Tip: If you want to make an apron yourself and not take your chances on this giveaway, there’s complete instructions on my Patterns page at