The Cowl as we know it is a medieval garment. It is made up of a hood and skirting. It may have evolved out of bands of fabric wrapped around the head, neck and shoulders, used in the ancient world. The cowl is still used today.

Monks within some Catholic Orders, to this day wear the cowl as part of their habit.  Some of these would be Benedictines, Franciscans, and Augustinians are just a few.

We can see remnants of this today, in our hoodies, Star Wars Jedi Knights, and many of our favorite video, and cartoon characters.

When ever we do a faire one concern all of our members have is protection from sunburn. We all use sun block, but that requires remembering to use it in the first place, and reapplying it. We also wear long sleeves and hats. These options, though they protect the areas cover, can miss some spots.

Nick, being quite fair skinned, had requested that we create a cowl to cover his head and neck.

We began to research patterns, and Ari began the designing process. She wanted to minimize the number of seams. but insisted that it no be a full circle. She ended up making two mock ups.

The above photos were the first mock up fitting. It may be the t-shirt and the fabric used for the mock up, causing the fabric to stick together,  but the fabric over the shoulders did not seem to lay right, and bunched wierdly.

The second mock up coincided with a fitting for the rest of his peasant costume in which the pants had to be taken in and adjustments made to the waistband. His jerkin needed to be redyed as the original blue was fading to lavender. The smock i made him was also finished, and ready for its final fitting, therefore the full costume of a peasant man.

Nick chose a heavy weight natural linen for this project. This means that the linen was not bleached, nor dyed. Its coloring ranges from a light cream to a beautiful brown, giving the fabric more character and visual texture. It also drapes very well.

We chose not to line the cowl. Ari suggested using a simple, decorative sewing stitch along the seams to make the edges lay flat. I chose the herring bone stitch.

Once I got the working of the Herring Bone Stitch I expanded its use to not only along the sides of the seams, but also along the edges. I have way too much fun hand stitching, I may have lost a bit of control, but I don’t think I over did it. and Nick was very please with the final product.

Here, it is not quite completed. The portion where the hood front overlaps needed to be hand tacked so it would not gape and display the inside seam, and hide the stitch by folding over.


Finished Cowl

This did not entirely work as the Hood portion may have too large an opening. It may also be that the Linen fabric really like to drape. For the next one we may try to stiffen the fabric by using interfacing along edge of the hood, and also lining it in the same fabric as the shell, making it reversible.


Medieval Thimble (or Thymel) on Fettered Cock Pewters

This interesting little number is a Medieval Tailor’s Thimble. It’s a ring-type, meant for sewing heavier materials. I put mine on my index finger and it stops on the second joint. The location and depth of the little indentations makes it perfect, and in my opinion, better than its modern counterparts. The modern ones tend to have shallower indentations that let the needle slip out to jab you with its still sharp butt end. It is a reproduction, but my only complaint is that the bottom flange that sticks up from the surface makes the thimble a little annoying to wear as a ring, which is a great place to put it so you don’t misplace it. It’s also a tad tight for my pinkie finger as a ring.

The thimble can be purchased at Westair Museum Reproductions (I believe it was originally made for them), Fettered Cock Pewters, on eBay and at several other sites for about $8 USD. Other sites, including Etsy, have similar thimbles for sale at different price points.

The Rogues have just returned from the annual SLO Renaissance Festival where bras were definitely not in fashion! We were trussed into our bodices (and in some cases also a corset) that were designed for maximum cleavage, not modern bra separation.

Corseting may have been the norm, but there were apparently exceptions. Anthony Castellano at ABC News writes:

“… four linen bras [were found] in an Austrian castle dating back to the 1400s, proving that women wore bras more than 600 years ago. It’s such a revolutionary find because fashion experts thought the modern-day bra was only about 100 years old after women became tired of tight corsets.” (more…)


This simple medieval kirtle is angle length, long sleeved with a fitted bodice. The kirtle was the mainstay of Medieval European fashion, changing very little from at least 1066 to the Renaissance, when it was replaced by the equally ubiquitous chemise. I’m simplifying, of course. I have not made a thorough study of foundation garments of the time period (not to be confused with your granny’s “foundations” – the Merry Widow, corset, or some such), but a general overview will show you that the simple kirtle will pass for several centuries and geographical locations.

An interesting feature about pre-pattern clothing is how individual the clothing must have been, despite the apparent simplicity of  an item like the humble kirtle. You can imagine that clothing would have been baggy and ill-fitting for the poor and nicely fitted for the wealthy (which hasn’t really changed).  We can’t be certain as there are very few images of common folk. Instructions would have been handed down from mother to daughter, but were more about getting the basic shape right, while making the best use of every scrap of fabric that was available. Think about it; if you spend the time to weave your own fabric or remake from an earlier garment, would you cut it into enough shapes that you essentially waste a third of the fabric?

Take the Moy Gown, one of the few extant garments of its time. This gown made good use of gusseting and insets to ensure a close fit. This is one of several reconstructions of the gown, with detailed information and images showing seaming and research documentation. Here is a more detailed study of the gown, as well as a reconstruction. (more…)