The Medieval Tailor's Workshop
Sewing samples from the 14th & 15th centuries

My Interactive Tailor's Workshop is often set up at events for members of the public to come and be educated about what tools people who sewed clothing might have used. The entire thing is touchable! People may feel the weight of hand-forged scissors, touch samples of real ermine, look at linen sewing threads, traditionally dyed wools and discover that not ALL wool is scratchy or hot. There are samples of tailoring, items like buttons, needles and pins and samples of clothing (not shown). Often through the day, free lucet classes or cloth button making workshops are held so sewers can learn to make one for themselves! And of course, sewing help for people making their own outfits.

1. Measuring stick. 36 inch wooden measuring stick with inches marked. Seen in the image from the 14th century, A Tailor's Workshop, Tacuinum sanitatis, MS 1673, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
2. Italian hand-dyed wools. Wools which have been locally sourced in the Italian countryside and dyed naturally using medieval techniques and dyestuffs. Colour range includes the first, second and third dye baths. This demonstrates the colour palette available to the country person who has limited resources.
3. Bentwood box. Bentwood boxes can be seen in a variety of manuscripts as storage for small household items. These are made from Finnish poplar wood and are used for storage, transport and display of sewing threads.
4. Hand-dyed wools for sewing. Hand-dyed woolen threads fine enough for sewing garments. Brown, red and blue are from Sweden and are naturally dyed using historical dyestuffs and methods. The undyed white is hand spun showing how fine a hand spun woolen thread can be.
5. Linen threads for sewing. Linen thread was used for sewing garments. These samples are both dyed and undyed.
6. Hand-turned thread reels. The design of these reels is based on an artifact find housed in the Museum of London.
7. Rabbit fur sample. Rabbit (or coney) fur was offten used my lower and middle classes for lining outer garments and hoods.
8. Lambswool sample. Wool was sometimes used for linings for the working classes.
9. Ermine fur sample. Ermine was one of the favourite choices for the upper classes for lining and dress trimmings.
10. Beehive thimble. Thimbles could be made from brass or copper alloy. The dimples were usually hand punched in the 14th century with machine drilled holes becoming more prevelant in the 15th century. Thickness was determined by the intended use.
11. Ring thimbles. These were also used through the medieval period. Dimples were usually round but in the 15th century, it was not uncommon for the dimples to be triangular or rectangular shaped, although I am uncertain as to whether this was decorative or served a practical purpose.
12. Pewter needle case. Based a design from a 14th century artifact from the Thames, held at the V&A.
13. Brass needle case. Based on an artifact from the Museum of London.
14. Pewter needle case with inscription. Slightly adapted from a 15th c. needle case from the Netherlands (Schatten) and similar to an English example (MoL, Pilgrim Souvenirs, fig. 7). It has the names of the Three Kings of Cologne and an invocation to the Blessed Virgin on the lower part. The upper and lower parts are strung together on cords
15. Hand-sheared, spun and woven cloth sample. Sample made by my sister when she was a teenager with very little experience. Pet sheep was sheared, fleece home washed, spun and woven into cloth. This sample shows what can be achieved by a young person with out years of experience.
16. Wooden framed magnifying glasses. By the 15th century, eyeglasses start to appear in manuscripts for tradesmen.
17. Eyelet sample. Sample of hand-sewn eyelet for dress lacing.
18. Internal woolen fabric seam sample. Sample of stitched down seam for woolen garment.
19. Wool clothing seam sample. Sample of stitched down seam for woolen garment.
20. Bone lucet and cord. Lucet based on multiple finds from Sweden housed at the Sigtuna museum.
21. Cloth cutting shears. Copy of 14th century artifact from the Thames, England. Housed at the VandA.
22. Metal thread snips. based on a copy in the Museum of London.
23a. 15th century scissors. Artifact Novgorod Musuem, Russia. Source 13th/15th C medieval paintings.
23b. 14-15th century scissors. Copy from Novgorod Musuem.
23c. 14th century scissors. Based on the image from the 14th century, A Tailor's Workshop, Tacuinum sanitatis, MS 1673, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
23d. 14-15th century scissors, copy of unnamed artifact, also seen 15th century painting, The Holy Family
24. Turned wooden box with raw fleece samples. Sample of fleece straight from the sheep!
25. Beeswax. I use beeswax prior to threading the needle for sewing to stop the thread from fraying.
26. Aglets. Metal aglets were used at the end of dress or hose laces, much like the plastic end of shoe laces today.
27. Brass sewing pins. Thicker sewing pins for use on wools. Finds of pins from the medieval period are extremely common.
28. Pewter and cloth button samples. Reproduction pewter buttons which are hand cast. Hand stitched fabric buttons.
29. Fine brass pins. Used for sewing fine cloths for veils etc. Fine linens and silks.
30. Wax tablets in leather case with brass stylus. Hand made reproduction of a 14th century artifact, set of four wax tablets made from bone and decorated leather case in the Museum of London. (not reproduction design on the leather case.)
31. Bone awl. Hand made bone awl for making eyelets.
32. Bone needles. Hand made bone needles which are good for sewing wool.
33. Brass needles. Hand made brass needles which are good for all sewing.
34. Linen-silk blend samples. A selection of linen silk belnds suitable for undergarments or light outer garments.
25. Linen weight samples. A selection of linens suitable for veils, aprons and underclothes.
36. Light-weight dress wool samples. Wool ssuitable to be used for summer clothing.
37. Woven patterned dress wool samples. Wools woven in stripes or with herringbone pattern.
38. Mid-light weight dress wool samples.
39. Wool samples to suit mid-weight clothing.
40. Wool samples to suit outers or surcotes.
Thickish wools for cold weather for clothing.
41. Wool samples to suit hose or cloaks
. Thick wools suitable for cold weather clothing or bedding.

42. Tailor's chalk. (currently not shown)
43. Niddy noddy. (currently not shown)


Copyright © Rosalie Gilbert
All text & photographs within this site are the property of Rosalie Gilbert unless stated.
Art & artifact images remain the property of the owner.
Images and text may not be copied and used without permission.