A kyrtill for #ShieldmaidenMarch

It’s March. This is still a little mind-boggling. But yes, it’s daylight when I leave work now, and the weather’s picking up, and the park up the road is covered in crocuses; it’s spring. (Finally.) This means it’s time for this month’s Sewcialist theme challenge – March of the Shieldmaidens!


There was no way I was going to pass this up, but I went back and forth about what I wanted to do for quite a while. Then, on Saturday 1st, I and a bunch of people from our LARP club piled into a small fleet of cars, turned up the Bonnie Tyler (this may have just been the car I was in …) and barreled down the M1 to Leicester for the annual LARP Awareness Party kit fair.

Kit fairs sell all sorts of stuff: LARP-safe weapons, costume, accessories, jewellery, props, food, alcohol, books … and fabric. I picked up a 4m length of rough cotton in a gorgeous blue for £10 from Ceolred Monger and decided that I was going to make a Viking-style kyrtill (tunic; whence “kirtle”) from it.

To make the pattern, I used this guide (PDF) – kindly provided by sewcialist Sølvi in her compendious post on Viking clothing – as a starting point and then went my own merry way.

The resultant garment springs firmly from that odd sub-dimension known as “history for LARPers”, which looks a lot like real history in places but features a lot more dragons and a lot less authentic replica underwear.*

  • It’s cotton, a fibre unknown to the Vikings.
  • Short, wide sleeves as opposed to full-length narrow ones. I wanted to be able to wear it over my LARP armour if necessary as a kind of surcoat.
  • A woman’s kyrtill would usually have been ankle-length; I cut mine to finish at the knee to be more combat-friendly.
  • The colour’s too bright – this kind of clear blue would have been hard to get from the dyes available to the Vikings, and very expensive where it could be found.

The construction is astoundingly simple and there’s not much to say about it. Other than the neckline, it’s all straight lines which went together with minimal fuss. Sleeve hems I just turned under and stitched. The hem is unfinished as it seems to be holding its shape – I think I must have gotten a bolt end, as the length of fabric seemed to have something selvage-like along one end as well as down both sides. The neckline is finished with this gorgeous woven linen trim:


Sølvi hosted a giveaway of some of her gorgeous tablet-woven trims as part of the aforementioned blog post, and I was lucky enough to snag this beauty. It’s pink and purple (very pale pink, almost white, and dark purple; it looks monochrome in some of the photos.) The pattern is different on each side – you can see both here:



The pattern follows the guidelines laid out in the PDF pretty much to the letter, with two exceptions: one, the short sleeves, and two, in my version there’s no space between the bottom of the under-sleeve gusset and the top of the side gore. They run into one another. I think this is because I cut the sleeves very wide to allow plenty of movement at the shoulder (see again, wanting to wear it over armour rather than under) and thus the gusset ended up lower than it should have been.

On the hanger – you can really see the batwing shape created by the sleeve gussets here:


And from the back, with a bit of a view of the >-shaped side seam – the gore starts as soon as the gusset stops:


Here it is on me, with a wide belt to give it some definition at the waist. For some reason (perhaps the length and width of the sleeves?) my arms look weirdly foreshortened:


And finally, because I couldn’t resist:


Hurrah for shieldmaidens!



* This is probably as good a time as any to rehash this old chestnut: A LARPer and a re-enactor are arguing over whose hobby is better.

The re-enactor says “Yeah, but we get to go into battle with real weapons.”

To which the LARPer replies “Yeah, but we get to decide who wins.”


About Craft (Alchemy)

I make things and make things up.
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9 Responses to A kyrtill for #ShieldmaidenMarch

  1. delfinelise says:

    Nice! What a treat to see the trim in use! I love it all! 🙂

  2. I do like that shape of sleeve.

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  4. gilliancrafts says:

    It’s fabulous! I like that you made it work for you and your LARPing needs… Mine isn’t going to be very accurate either! Can I ask how you attached the trim? I think I’m going to hand stitch mine, but I”m not quite sure…

  5. @Sølvi, thank you! I still have about eight inches of the trim left and no idea what to do with it …

    @Catherine – I had never previously thought of batwing sleeves as something I was interested in, but the kirtle was so comfy (… I may have kept it on for a couple of hours after taking the photos) and so easy to move in compared to some other garments that I’m wondering about reproducing the effect elsewhere.

    @Gillian – the cotton presses beautifully, so I was able to the raw edge to the right side and then topstitch the trim down over it without too much trouble. I thought about using it the way I would bias binding, but it’s far too stiff.

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