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Eleventh Century Dress – Quick Update and Trims

My crafter ADD finally took me back to the eleventh century dress. I’ve undone all my painstaking over-achiever seam finishing around the arms, so not it’s ugly, but fits. Score one for the good guys…. That leaves me with nothing to do but decorate it, so I’m excited about the project again!

inside finishing on armscye
I trimmed the armscye seam allowances back to 1/8", then finished them with a whip-stitch. Ugly, but effective and less bulky.

I still want to do some beading on this silly thing, and I still want to use an appropriate medieval german beading method with one thread for beads and one for couching them to an animal parchment ground, but I’ve been having some trouble sizing the system down. Finding a substitute for the animal parchment that will support beads while not stiffening the hems of the dress hasn’t been going as well as I’d hoped. Likewise, finding a suitable substitute for the gold foil “bezants” discussed in Ms. Segrest’s article has me stumped.

But I wants me some beady-goodness and I wants me some shiny gold to jazz it all up. (Also, I’d like to finish this darn thing some day.) So I pulled some thin gold trims out of ye olde trim stash….

trimmings for the overdress
I'll use bands of gold trim around the hems...

I’m planning (currently) to use bands of gold trims at the hems of the dress. I plan to space the trims a little apart from each other, and run the beadwork in between.

closeup of the sleeve hem
The sleeve hem will have three lines of trim, with beadwork between.

I’m turning the hems out to the front, so I need the trimmings to hide the ugly. I’m doing this to avoid the extra bulk of a fully turned hem.

There’s a major lesson to be learned here: linings are GREAT. Linings are your friends. Linings will save you  a million years of seam finishing and hem hiding time. I just have no evidence in favor of linings in the eleventh century…. Le sigh.


  1. Anna-Carin
    Anna-Carin March 22, 2011

    If you’re still stuck on what to use for parchment and bezants, here’s a couple of ideas: Take a piece of suitable weight silk, preferably white or beige. Paint it with light beige fabric paint or craft paint, let it dry, sponge on different shades of beige, cut into strips when dry. The paint should keep them from fringing (use thick, creamy paint; not the watery dye-like type). Miniature bezants are probably made somewhere, as I’ve seen them on Mediterranean souvenir dolls, but you may have to make your own. See if you can find thin metal sheets in a craft shop (it can be creased and cut with scissors similar to metal paper, but doesn’t have a paper core) and do some basic embossing (easy with an old ballpoint pen on a mouse mat). Then punch it out with craft punches, and make holes with a pin. Some years ago I bought a set of these thin metal sheet in various colors for Christmas tree ornaments, and then it went out of stock here, but I still have a tiny scrap or two left. It’s just a few square inches but should be enough for your needs, let me know if you want me to mail it to you.

    • missa
      missa March 22, 2011

      Hi, Anna-Carin,
      Thanks! I hadn’t thought about the silk, but that’s so cool! I had given up on the bezants – I thought about using thin sheets of metal like you’re describing, or even beads and gold foil, but I ultimately decided to use a gold trims. Just this once, sanity won out…. ;)
      What’s currently getting me down is that finishing the neckline looks like work. Silly, right? I just can’t seem to face the little thing…..

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