In the wee small hours of history age shirt

Let’s have something unusual today 😉

Maybe you wonder, remembering I said I don’t want to publish modern projects on this blog? Well, you are absolutely right about what I said and absolutely wrong if you consider today’s project being something modern. age shirt II

In fact, this is by far the oldest and most antique project I have ever made or shown.
Before you are too confused now: We are talking about the shirt, not the skirt 😉
The first time I saw this pattern was in 2012, I discovered it in a book on prehistoric textiles in the library of the musée des tissus in Lyons.  I copied the pattern to try it back home (unfortunately without noting in which book I had found it. That really is a pity because until today it is the only version of this pattern I know that comes with measurements). age shirt back

Only later I realized I owned a book myself that had the pattern in it.* And among Archaeologists it is pretty well known: This blouse was found in numerous women’s and girl’s graves dating from the bronze age. For example it formed part of the clothing worn by the Egtved girl who died around 1370 b.c., though the skirt that was found as well is today much more famous than the blouse. age shirt back II

What fascinated me about this bronze age pattern, was that it was cut from only one piece of fabric.  Today it is assumed that the special cut and the sizing of the blouse can be connected to fur- and leather-sewing-techniques of the time. Considering you only need a piece of fabric measuring 110cm x 60cm this seems quite plausible as it should be a size you could easily cut from a cow’s or a stag’s skin. The blouses found were however made from woven fabrics. age shirt III

You can find a scheme of the pattern here, just scroll down to the end of the page, here you have a perspective drawing that could help you understand how it is assembled. And finally, this drawing shows the outlines from the different blouses found (the link to the original source unfortunately doesn’t work). The pattern and the measurements I copied back in Lyons (and therefore the ones I used for making this blouse) were taken from the example in the middle, the Borum Eshøj-blouse. What you see is that most of the preserved blouses have an additional strip sewn onto the lower edge of the main part, like this it was possible to adjust the hemline even if the width of the fabric or the skin wasn’t enough. The strip found on this blouse was 5cm wide, I made mine much wider and doubled it so it would give a little structure to the blouse (the fabric I used is very thin and unlike the heavy cloth used 3000 years ago). If made narrower (or directly added to the pattern and cut in one piece, as today a width of more than 60cm should be that much of a problem) it could pass for a very modern shirt as they were very en vogue last summer. And the length of the sleeves is adjustable as well. The version above was made with a 30cm wide neck opening while the sleeves each measure 40cm from the neckline to the hem (therefore the 110cm I talked of above).  Making a version with longer or shorter sleeves would be perfectly easy.

The fit is not as bad as you could imagine. Because of the lack of a proper seam underneath the sleeves you can’t insert gussets, but that is not that big a problem because the blouse should be pretty wide, unlike mine which is in fact too small (sits a little tight, breathing isn’t that good an idea when wearing it). But this was because I started to work with the measurement taken from the original (80cm bust circumference *cough*), planning to adjust a second version to my size. Haven’t made this second version so far, so you get to see the too small first version today. Age shirt IV

And look, it could very well pass as a vintage pattern, don’t you think?

I love this pattern because it is quite simple to make (only the seam allowances have to be comparably narrow), very very old but absolutely timeless in its style. Imagine this in a brown wool and you surely have some kind of prehistoric garment. Use a patterned viscose as I did and it looks like a summer blouse that hides its historic background perfectly. Keep in mind that you have some seams in the back when chosing the fabric, otherwise it might look odd, cutting through a large motif.

But to me this project is still one of the best examples of how simple a sewing pattern can be and how important the fabric and its pattern is when it comes to the impression a garment gives. Age Shirt V
1st outfit: skirt: edc – shoes: G-Star, 2nd outfit: skirt: ette – shoes: Limelight

I am participating with this post in Idle Needle’s “Make, Thrift & Tell” January challenge (Patterns). It is a lovely idea and she is having a link party over at her blog!

To finish with: The post’s title came to my mind when I looked out of the window the morning I wrote the post (yesterday, so tuesday) and had Sinatra’s In the wee small hours of the morning in my head immediately.  Unfortunately the photos I made directly afterwards were all blurry, so I can only show you the scenery in bright daylight (imagine this only lit by a small street lamp). garden

This is how the garden looks today. At least somebody in the house appreciates snow (I don’t really), our landlord’s dog, caught in full speed: in the snow

See you on sunday, love


* From this book I also drew all the archaeological information given in this post:
Karin Grömer: Prähistorische Textilkunst in Mitteleuropa. Geschichte des Handwerkes und der Kleidung vor den Römern, Wien 2010.


12 thoughts on “In the wee small hours of history

  1. I love that “vintage” pattern! It would fit right in with the “zero waste” design movement, since it doesn’t leave any scraps. I’m sure after going through everything they had to to spin, weave and sew that fabric, they used every ounce they had. Thanks for the info!

  2. That’s really fascinating, such an old pattern!! And you’re right, it’s absolutely timeless. Thank you for showing us 🙂

  3. And they even did more amazing things like weaving oval shaped capes or wove a length of fabric for a wrap skirt that is slightly wider in the centre back (grain laid horizontally, like this it creates an even hem without sewing one). Astonishing what ideas they had and solutions they found back then. I mean, hemming is no fun, but I would have considered calculating this on a loom far more difficult.

  4. Auf den ersten Blick dachte ich, das wäre ein Schnitt aus den 60ern! Und dass so ein Oberteil aus Webstoff tatsächlich bequem ist, hätte ich auch nicht gedacht. Spannend, und dazu dann noch so einen Wickelrock, wie du ihn oben erwähnst…

  5. Unglaublich wie zeitlos dieses Schnittmuster ist! Ich hätte auch auf 50s getippt und mich somit um mehrere hundert Jahre verschätzt… Und es steht dir auch super! Ich könnte mir vorstellen, dass bei etwas moppeligeren Frauen wie mir nicht so gut sitzen würde und die Bewegung einschränken könnte. Vielleicht probiere ich es mal aus!

  6. historical patterns are so fascinating – i too once copied an old jacket pattern from a history of fashion book and sewed it up just out of curiosity, of course it fitted no-one… either people used to have very small frames hundreds of years ago or i should have tried it over a corset 🙂

    your bronze age blouse looks every way wearable in that fabric. i might give the pattern a go once baby is a bit less demanding, i have some spotty jersey in the cupboard, might be perfect for this.

    thanks for linking up to Make, Thrift & Tell – hope to see you again!

  7. Naja, der Schnitt ist halt in etwa wie eine Tunika, solange der weit genug ist, ist das schon bequem. Und der dabei gefundene Wickelrock ist vor allem deshalb besonders, weil er aus gedrehten Schnüren besteht, wie ein Hawaii-Rock. Aber sie hängen so dicht, dass man offenbar wirklich nichts sah. In der Historical-Sew-Forthnightly hat letztes Jahr jemand diesen Rock nachgearbeitet (ich weiss nicht, ob du das Foto sehen kannst, wenn du nicht in der Gruppe bist).

  8. Tausend 😛
    Du müsstest bei einer grösseren Grösse vielleicht die Breite etwas anpassen, so dass dir die Ärmel nicht zu kurz werden. Aber eigentlich dürfte es sonst nicht schlechter sitzen. Wegen der fehlenden Keile unter den Ärmeln und ohne Abnäher sitzt das Ding ja sowieso nicht wirklich “gut”, sondern kann nur ein lockeres, hemdartiges Ding sein.

  9. Yes, I love to work with historical patterns. From what period was your project? There could be multiple reasons why it didn’t fit. First as you say, when a corset was worn at the time, the patterns are fitted to be worn with them and look odd without. Second, the posture was different. I once tried on a toile made after an 18th century dress and the shoulders were so very narrow. I had to pull my shoulders back to make it fit, but then it really did fit. So they had to stand very upright to achieve the desired silhouette, although the corsets did help with this. Third reason is that historical patterns weren’t meant to be sewn together and worn, as we understand patterns today. They were more of a general design, an idea you would show your tailor and he would adjust it to fit your body. It is next to impossible to find a historical pattern that fits you right out of the envelope, so this wasn’t your fault.

    I can imagine this pattern very well in jersey, could be even more comfortable than in woven fabric. Please show when you tried it!
    And I hope to participate soon again, thanks so much for this idea and the link-up.

  10. Vielen Dank! Ja, Bronzezeit, was man nicht alles findet, wenn man ein wenig im Matsch buddelt 🙂

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