How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 9, by Sidney Eileen.

The outside of the finished gore.

This tutorial shows how to hand sew gores into a slash on the skirt of Medieval garb.  The style of gore insertion I use is based primarily on the 15th century dress finds in Iceland.  I like using this method because it is much more secure than inserting into a straight slash.  This method can also be used on a sewing machine.  Just follow the same steps, but on your machine instead.  Where I recommend using back stitch, stitch over the same line two or three times with your machine.

This particular dress is made from a linen blend fabric, and hand stitched using thread from the selvage edge of the fabric.  The selvage threads of machine-woven fabrics are always a higher quality so they will feed properly through the machine during the manufacturing process.  This makes them ideal to use for color-matched hand sewing, unlike the fabric body threads that can be too delicate to work well or hold up under wear.

Linen thread is beautiful for hand sewing and embroidery, but it does require some special handling to prevent a nightmare.  Use only high quality linen threads for sewing.  They do not need to be thick, but they should be smooth and free of obvious flubs and variations in thickness.  When selvage thread is not an option, I am a fan of Londonderry linen thread because of its high quality and the range of colors available.  When you pull your length of thread off the spool, hold it up to the light, pinch it between your fingers, and then move your left and right hands apart while lightly pinching the thread.  You will see some feathering along the thread, but it should be less pronounced in one direction than the other.  When you sew, to prevent damage to the thread you want the thread to pull so that it creates less feathering.

It is absolutely essential to use thread conditioner on linen thread or it can literally disintegrate on you from the friction of being pulled repeatedly through your fabric.  Beeswax is ideal, but other thread conditioners work as well.  Pull your thread through the conditioner repeatedly until it is completely saturated.  The thread conditioner will hold all those feathery bits to the thread, help it slide more smoothly through the fabric, and generally extend the life of your thread.

When you work with linen thread, keep the eye of your needle as close to the end of the thread as you can.  The abrasion of the eye will damage and eventually cut the thread, so anything beyond the eye of the needle will be lost.  Avoid the temptation to slide the eye down the thread as you work, like most of us do with all-purpose or cotton thread.  It will irreparably damage your linen thread.

The first step is to cut your slash.  Stop your vertical cut 1/2″ from where you want the gore to start, and then cut a “Y” pattern to seam allowance depth.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 1, by Sidney Eileen. Cut your slash, making a "Y" pattern at the top to the depth of your seam allowance.

Cut your slash, making a “Y” pattern at the top to the depth of your seam allowance.

 

Sew the point of your gore to the top of the slash.  Make sure you have seam allowance on your gore fabric to either side of the “Y” top.  Use a back stitch so you have as strong a seam as possible, since much of the weight of your gore will be hanging from this area.  Also, be sure to put right sides together.

Backstitch Illustration, by Sidney Eileen

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 2, by Sidney Eileen. Sew your gore to the top of the slash. Make sure you have seam allowance on your gore fabric to either side of the "Y" top.

Sew your gore to the top of the slash. Make sure you have seam allowance on your gore fabric to either side of the “Y” top.

 

Turn the side of your slash so that it lines up with the side of the gore.  For the first inch or two I recommend using back stitch for extra strength, then stitch down to the hem using a running stitch.

Running Stitch Illustration, by Sidney Eileen

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 3, by Sidney Eileen. Turn the side of your slash so that it lines up with the side of the gore, then stitch down to the hem.

Turn the side of your slash so that it lines up with the side of the gore, then stitch down to the hem.

When using a straight slash there is a very long area with limited seam allowance.  By using a “Y” slash, the area of minimal seam allowance is very short, greatly reducing the risk of your seam pulling free.  If it does, you will end up with a small hole at the corner that can be whip stitched or buttonhole stitched closed, rather than the entire tip of your gore pulling free.

Line up the other side of the slash with the other side of your gore and repeat.  Back stitch the top inch or so, and then running stitch to the hem.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 4, by Sidney Eileen. Repeat on the other side of the gore. Line up the seam allowances and stitch to the hem.

Repeat on the other side of the gore. Line up the seam allowances and stitch to the hem.

 

Start at one hem and work your way up the gore finishing off your seam allowance.  You can use whatever seam finishing technique you would like, but I recommend either a flat felled seam finish.  This will enclose the areas of minimal seam allowance at the tips of the “Y”.

Flat Felled Seam Finish Illustration, by Sidney Eileen

Flat Felled Seam Finish Illustration

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 5, by Sidney Eileen. Start at one hem and work your way up the gore finishing off your seam allowance.

Start at one hem and work your way up the gore finishing off your seam allowance.

 

Trim the tip of the gore to seam allowance.  I wait until this point because if I am trimming off any hand sewing on the body of the gore (as I did in this case) I don’t want to give it time to unravel.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 6, by Sidney Eileen. Trim the tip of the gore to seam allowance.

Trim the tip of the gore to seam allowance.

 

Fold under the tip of the gore and stitch it down.  Then continue down the other side of the gore.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 7, by Sidney Eileen. Fold under the tip of the gore and stitch it down. Then continue down the other side of the gore.

Fold under the tip of the gore and stitch it down. Then continue down the other side of the gore.

 

Your gore should be securely sewn in place.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 8, by Sidney Eileen. The inside of the finished gore.

The inside of the finished gore.

How to Hand Sew Gores on Medieval Garb - 9, by Sidney Eileen.

The outside of the finished gore.