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15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:09 pm
by spongyDan

I was wondering if anyone knew of some good sewing patterns for 15 century men's clothing or where some could be obtained from?

If a thread already exists pertaining this information I apologies for the inconvenience of having a repeating thread, I have searched for them but I have not found any.

Thank you for any replies. :D

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:23 pm
by wulfenganck
There are traders that sell patterns, but especially men's clothing for the 15th ct requires some work of your own to adjust any pattern to the special geometric challenges of your body;-)
Lots of patterns I've seen don't work as they are made with a (modern) general distinction (like small, medium,. large size). That doesn't work for a accurate replica.

If you're into french, flemish or burgundian fashion, I recommend this: ... e_Downloadreplic.
I definitely recommend Sarah Thurston's Medieaval Tailor's Assistant, as this book explains how to makle your own pattern. It may be outdated for some details or concerning the regional differences in style, but it's still a tremendous tool.

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:26 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
Buy or order thorugh the library a copy of "The Medieval Tailor's Assistant - making common garments 1200 - 1500" by Sarah Thursfield (Ruth Bean Publishers ISBN 0-903585-32-4)

older books which still hold good

and I also rather like "Medieval Costume and How to recreate it" by Dorothy Hartley (by Dover ISBN 0-486-42985-7 )for working clothes: her sketches are good without a heavy own-time overlay and includes photographs of her recreations on people

"Medieval Costume in England and France - the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries" - Mary G Huston - (Dover ISBN 0-486-29060-3) good reference - again with little own-time overlay, but be aware that French and English fashions varied greatly.

and to a lesser extent for an wider overview "Medieval Costume and Fashion" by Herbert Norris - (Dover ISBN 0-486-40486-2) as he applies a 1927 overlay more strongly than the other authors but covers civil ecclesiastical working and high status clothing. If you have an overview of the whole societal/status approach it makes pitching your own clothing easier.

All still available in reprint - some even second hand although I gather that the Sarah Thursfield is not easy to source at present.

The best ways to make up clothes for this period is making a pattern on your own body, but if using ready made patterns I still make up a toile as a practice run for fitting and then take it apart and use that for the pattern. That is why I now never throw away any bedsheets or duvet covers - especially when working with good or expensive cloth

PLEASE NOTE THOUGH - English fashions are doing entirely their own thing during these periods, so don't just go and choose a random European look : influences alter by reign and diplomatic involvement - good range of their patterns stocked here in the UK by Paul Meekins

or Harper house to see the range available from many makers (by period)

and the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild review section to see how easy the patterns are or aren't to work with

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:58 pm
by Colin Middleton
If you're having problems getting hold of The Medieval Tailor's Assistant, please let Sarah know. She can be contacted through her website (

Many thanks


Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:55 pm
by Captain Reech ... 832&sr=1-1

Amazon UK don't have it in stock but list a number of sellers who do (or are advertising that they do!)

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:04 pm
by Redders can be useful if you're trying to locate specific books.
Quite often cheaper than other mainstream suppliers too.

Worth a look if you're stuck.

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:48 pm
by Cilean

I don't know if you have checked out she has both male & female. They have 14th and 15th Century patterns!

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:12 pm
by Mark Griffin
depending on how late your clothing needs to be you might also try

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:37 pm
by Colin Middleton
Sarah Thursfield ( also does patterns for earlier stuff, but only for children and accessories (such as hats). She doesn't do patterns for adult's garments because they should be fitted to the individual, not a 'generic' shape.

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:58 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
In which case, google Sally Pointer's kirtle pattern C14th - early C15th construction methods.

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Fri Jul 24, 2015 10:48 am
by marilyn1

"The best ways to make up clothes for this period is making a pattern on your own body, but if using ready made patterns I still make up a toile as a practice run for fitting and then take it apart and use that for the pattern. That is why I now never throw away any bedsheets or duvet covers - especially when working with good or expensive cloth"

Did you mean that we should use the useless/old bedsheets or bedspreads fabric for clothing?

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 5:26 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
No, I don't re-use the cotton or suggest (see past posts) it as suitable for medieval or other non-cotton periods.

It isn't just the historical imperative of being wrong for period: if you are not used to wearing the full set of past undergarments it is simply practical for several reasons: cotton doesn't endure washing as well as linen, it isn't as cool to wear, it doesn't wick sweat away from the body as effectively, it doesn't dry as quickly - it doesn't resell as well if you want to regain fabric costs on outgrown items. Also when cotton does some into the country as a textile, it is a very high status garment (Elizabeth 1's wardrobe inventory I believe lists a cotton shirt) and the early C15th arming jackets listed as stuffed with Italian cotton go under plate (high status war-wear) so are rarer and costly imported items, in a period considering protectionist import embargos and enacting sumptuary statutes.

In the medieval period 'cotton' is actually a reference to a wool surfacing method (see "cottoning") - such fabric is still, I believe used in theatre back-drops as the surface texture doesn't give light back and the wool smoulders with a strongly warning smell rather than burning clean and fast from the first.

Saving old bedding provides a lot of cost free fabric to drape and discard if you need a radical re-cut. A king size duet cover yields approximately 8m [4 runs of 225cm L x 110 w cloth] ......that's a lot of money saved to achieve a personal pattern - which again saves money in expensive wools and linens.

I would recycle the toile depending on period, the kind of cotton/ fabric the bedsheet is made of and the purpose. Polycotton mixes for theatrical or backing or interlining to add weight to cheaper fabrics or opacity, cotton for one off status fancy dress or period appropriate underpinnings/daywear , linen for earlier period clothing. If I've no use for the toile pieces after the pattern is made, I store large ones away to use when needing pieces for a toile for a smaller item.

100% cotton sheets of close weave and high thread count (if you have cut around any stains or wear patches) can be recycled for cotton period clothing - Regency, Victorian, C20th "modern" period. Or re-assembled for under garments suitable to the cut of the finished garment - critical if wearing later supported styles of the crinolette and bustle periods which need such layers to work well.

If you have the luxury of cast off linen sheets, go ahead for earlier periods. Just ensure in both cases that you use a natural thread so you can over-dye later if you wish. (Warning - wearing well-washed linen next to the skin is going to ruin anything but the highest quality or finest woven cotton for you!)

And I always pre-shrink fabrics: the sheet has been through many washes, you fabric may not, and on the first day you wear it out in the rain (or even on heavily misty / successively mizzly days) you will be surprised with the shrinkage if you haven't re-stretched as it dries because you have underestimated the ambient atmospheric damp. Buy an extra metre (just in case - some shrink a little, some a LOT), wash it and then you won't be heartbroken at passing on a beautifully worked lambswool summerweight flannel kirtle for a 5'8" woman as an autumn / spring one to a 10 year old girl...... (happened - and my daughter had the benefit)

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 7:14 pm
by Colin Middleton
Hi Alice, while I broadly agree with you on using the right fabric for your period, how do you stand on the 'better good cotton than bad linen' argument?


Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 7:50 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
Playing devil's advocate again, Colin? :twisted: That is a question to be decided by a person's group and advised by their authenticity officer.

However there is no doubt that there was crappy linen in the C15th, just as there are crappily made tee-shirts now - hence Guild restrictions and internal due process just as we have Trading Standards Officers and court prosecutions. Then we cropped local flax and retted it to process into linen as it suited our climate. Now we bulk-import American cotton textiles instead.

Linen was costly and hard to come by in 1999 when there was only one market and a few peripatetic suppliers. It isn't now, (in light of mainstream fashion take-up) and since then research /changes in the standard of kit and presentations have advanced hugely across the board.

I've said it before: frequently a tight budget engenders more thought and therefore a better result - the old saw goes "buy cheap, buy twice". Why start with something that you may have to replace later, when that money could be used to add to your kit instead of replacing basics? Why limit your resale pool? If it is a non-cotton period , yes - bad linen. Because if nothing else, not everyone then could enjoy the quality control or supposedly reliable incomes we take for granted today: bad linen thus becomes an instant talking point with the public.

...and Marilyn, I apologise here in that I am talking about Northern European re-enactment availability. Yours is the exception that proves the rule: I fully realise that there are import costs and restrictions in The Land Down Under : in which case you'd have to see m'first point until - as was once the case here here - required things become more obtainable.

Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 7:22 am
by Colin Middleton
:angel: Well everyone picks on him so badly if I don't. :wink:

I was thinking somewhat of the problems that we had the other year, when bad weather wrecked the flax harvests and just about the only linen available was more hole than thread. The lower classes might get away with linen like that (or hemp or nettle fabrics), but the more wealthy would be wearing linens with two and three times that thread count. As most medieval re-enactors play members of households, then the all hole stuff is probably less authentic than the cotton (and may not last as well).

What I'd say on the subject is to be wary of crap linen, but if it's £5 per meter for good cotton or £10 per meter for good linen, then spend the extra, it will br worth it.


Re: 15 Century sewing patterns

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:37 am
by Alice the Huswyf
But surely there are three basic re-enactorisms which everyone understands?

1) Re-enactment is the only place where men can loudly admire one another's shoes in public without assumptions being made about their sexuality.
2) Put one group of ten re-enactors in a closed room for four hours and when you release them, you will have four different groups;
one of which will still be schisming over the correct shoe polish and another which will have changed period.
3) He/she who dies with the largest fabric stash, wins.

Does anyone really only buy just enough yardage - thereby not allowing for washing shrinkage, children's growth spurts, unexpected moth or untimely tears etc (or is it my old problem and time for rehab again?).

Seriously, this isn't about profligacy. Planning kit requirements ahead and purchasing a little extra when textile X is common and lower-priced to put by for later need is a sensible economy. If you don't use it, then you can always sell it off at times of market dearth.# In years gone by you couldn't get linen - now good, easily affordable wool cloth is pressured. As with many things, prices are reverting after many years of unusually low, over-competitive pricing based on the misbegotten principle of everlasting mass consumption. Personally, I can only raise one mug to my mouth at a time (polite version), so 'less is more', as it makes sense to invest in fewer, better quality items (how authentic, just like our forebears did).............instead of having to rent storage space for unused, 'adequate' stuff.

Value is comparative and is often calculated as purchase price divided by number of times used equals real cost. If it you buy it at £5 and you use it once, it cost you £5. If you buy it at £30 but you used it 12 times, it cost you £2.50.

Nowadays many established traders also sell online. While I'd recommend many for face-to-face shopping (the surest way to purchase cloth - you need to feel the weight and hang: for all my experience and luck, I have still got caught out buying online), I happily send beginners online to Anwar Ali at Herts Specialist fabrics who will answer questions with sense, even for linens outside his core specialism . I am sure there are others, but I am out of the loop, being under a strict family interdict to use up m'present hoard.

Otherwise, see the Tuppence's thread on recommended local haberdashers - ... f=3&t=4932 you will pay more, but it leaves you extra options when short of time or changes of need upset your careful pre-planning. Remember that your time also has value - you may save £ on fabric driving for an hour to avoid the extra £5 of cost in your local haberdasher, but how much was your time worth? And your fuel? And of what value is it to you to have the option of a local haberdashers still trading to drop into?

# [heresy alert] Or even make up into modern clothing and goods to enjoy in everyday life. [/heresy alert]