Kirtles – 2 Pattern

Overview | Pattern | Lacing | Gores & Fitting | Sleeves | Final Fitting

Please click on small thumbnail images to download a larger image

The image to the right is a basic diagram of how I layout a kirtle on my fabric. This varies depending on the width of the fabric.

The lavender pieces are the pattern pieces needed, at minimum, for a kirtle.

The yellow areas reflect where fitting will occur during the construction phase of your kirtle and are an approximation of what your scraps will look like.

The numbers correspond to the following:

  • Back pieces– shoulder width halved plus 1/2″ seam allowance (1/4″ on each side.)  This narrow seam allowance allows the garment to fit more closely to the body. Any additional fitting needs will occur in the construction phase (kirtle page 3) and will happen with piece 3. Cut 2.
    across: back shoulder to shoulder ÷ 2 + 1″
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″
  • Front pieces– shoulder width halved plus 1/2″ seam allowance. Cut 2.
    across: front shoulder to shoulder ÷ 2 + 1″
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)
  • Side Gores– The narrow width is the following formula: total bust measurement at the widest point – your front + back measurements and then divided by four +1″ + seam allowance. The 1″ and the angle will allow you to fit your kirtle once you are in the construction phase. This will make more sense when we get there. Cut 4, 6 or 8 as you like. Adjust accordingly if you cut 6 or 8. You will divide by 6 or 8 instead of 4.
    across: bust – shoulder width divided by 4 + 1″ (for instance, 42 (bust) – 32 (shoulder) = 10 divided by 4(# of gores) = 2.5 +1″ = 3.5″. Make your side gores at least 4″ at the top so there is room to fit).
    down: shoulder to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)
  • Front and back gores– waist to floor for front and lower back to floor for back. I cut two sets of the smaller pieces to use as extra side gores for my fuller hips. You may or may not need to do this.
    across: make at wide at the hem as you have fabric for. See diagram.
    down: waist to hem + 1″ (if you want your hem to trail, add inches here)
  • Sleeves The small triangular pieces will be inserted at the back of the shoulder for fit. You may use them both (2 per sleeve), only one, or need to use three. This will depend entirely on your body and how tight you want your sleeves at the upper arm. The size of the triangular gores will be determined by the difference between your armscye measurement (which you determine during fitting on page 4) and the top of your sleeve.You will measure your arm length (top of shoulder to wrist). This is longest part of the sleeve.Then measure around your bicep while your arm is at your side. This is the width of your sleeve at the widest part. (picture forthcoming). You will need to create the curve yourself. I draw a line across the top of the sleeve and then a mark 1.5″ above and one 1/5″ below. I then trace a curve moving from the top to the bottom. I try to not have a greater difference more than 2.5″ or 3″ top to bottom on the curve.The sleeve has a button placket that rests on your forearm. This  placket is created on the seam, which runs, not under your arm but from back of your shoulder blade to your outside wrist. This is why the sleeve pattern looks different from a modern sleeve which has a seam that is directly under your arm from pit to underside of wrist.
    down: shoulder to wrist + 1″
    around: bicep to determine top width, wrist to determine bottom width, forearm below elbow to determine where to begin decrease + 1″ each.

If you plan well here, you will find that the only waste you have is where you cut away the yellow areas. Everything else should be useable for creating pouches, garters, or applique for other projects. The goal here is to conserve your precious fabric, expensive even by today’s standards.

This image shows what is left after I have cut out my kirtle.

  1. Not very useful scraps
  2. Scraps that can be used for garters, which, if I had cut a bit better, might not have been at all, this was the extra
    inch seam allowance I didn’t need
  3. two pieces suitable for a pouch
  4. perhaps for applique?

This image shows the TOTAL amount of scraps removed after fitting that are not useful for even applique work.

17 thoughts on “Kirtles – 2 Pattern

  1. I am curious…how much fabric would you recommend for making a kirtle? I am five foot four, about a size 9 (US) in pants. I am also trying to figure out what figure 3 is for…I see the front and back pieces in 1 and 2. I also see back and two side gores in figure 4. Are the figure 3n gores with the curves for the front gores? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for replying! 🙂 I thought those side gores were supposed to go from the hipbone to the floor, not from the armpit? That’s what it looks like in your completed picture, but in Gores and Fitting, you seem to have three pieces on your sides; two long skinny pieces under your arm with a triangular gore in between. It’s times like these that I wish I could see an actual garment in my hands!

    • Hi Lisa!
      There are many many ways to make kirtles and cottes.

      The brown wool kirtle has gores running from armpit to hem flaring dramatically at the hip for a full skirt. The sleeve triangle gore is in the back of the sleeve next to shoulder blade. This design is based on the gored Greenland garments. See “Woven Into The Earth” for other examples. You can certainly not use the side gores and drape the pattern but I am adamently oppossed to the draping method for a variety of reasons.

      Since there are no set rules and many examples of a variety of cuts I encourage you to dig deeper, find out what is most correct for your time frame and location, and make what suits you best. The method I use is tried and true and works for me but may not be for you.

      The Robin Netherton school of thought so to speak uses a method similar to what you describe but try as I might I’ve not found anything to support the use of that many pins or that particular cut this early. I personally find it laughable but many love it and there is so much we dont know.

      Check out the Golden Gown of Queen Margareta for a completely different cut. This is out of my period but definitely provides food for thought. It doesnt use gores at all in the way we are discussing and has a grand aisette. Variety is to be found.

    • Ah, okay, now I understand what you’re getting at. I also looked here: and your way looks something like Nockert Type 4 but fitted. Queen Margareta’s Golden Gown is gorgeous! I wonder how heavy it is though with all that gold.

      I wasn’t really planning to drape the whole thing as I really only have myself to do it, everyone else is too busy with their own projects to help drape me like that. I think I will make a shoulder block and try it your way in muslin first and see how that works then move on to my five yards of fabric if I succeed. I only hope that it’ll be enough fabric!

      I’m nervous because I already screwed up on the chemise, which is supposed to be simple, but the person who put the directions online said to measure the body panels from the waist measurement and I think I should have done it from the bust instead. It looks like Nockert Type 5. It fits, with the underarm gusset and side gore meeting at the narrowest part, which happens to be slightly above my natural waist. It’s really snug though and getting it on and off was an adventure in itself and I’m surprised I didn’t tear out a seam. I only have enough fabric to make gores. I don’t know where to insert the new gores…should I stick them in like you did for your kirtles, with two long side gores going from hem to the sides of the underarm gussets (and cutting off the points) and the waist length gore in between, or do the same but with the long side gores going all the way up to the shoulder to vanish at the top? Or should I put in one gore in between the two halves of the waist length gore with the point going all the way up through the underarm gusset like an third triangle? That might make the gussets too large…

      I’ve been looking everywhere for the answer but not being able to find one other than the fact that I know that people have enlarged chemises and tunics for growing children. On SCA-Garb at yahoo groups, one lady boasted that her daughter has been wearing the same tunic since she was four years old and she was ten by the time that post was posted…she just kept adding more gores to make it bigger. I just wish I knew where to insert them. I could also buckle down and use my long strip of mistakenly cut fabric and cut the body panel off center to the correct measurement and then sew the mistake fabric to it so it will have a front and back seam but then I’m afraid that the neck hole will end up too wide. Or take it all apart and buy more fabric. I did post on SCA-Garb, but there haven’t been any new posts since June and I’m assuming everyone is on vacation. If you could help me, that would be awesome! Thanks and I wish I could post a picture of my cut out material for you.

      Also, I hope your chemo is going well!

    • Hi Lisa,

      I under rstand your dilemma but I simply can’t dedicate time to your project at this time.

      I recommend, that you study the Greenland patterns on Marc Carlson’s site and you’ll get a very solid grasp of where gores can be inserted. You’ll even note that thhe gores aren’t always the same number on each side.

      Best of luck!

  3. Thanks, that’s okay. I’ve drawn out some diagrams and hopefully will pick the right one this weekend. One more thing, is this message thread public and therefore taking up too much of your page? If so, I’m very sorry about that, and you can delete them. Later, when I upload my pictures, I can send you a link if you want to see my progress.

    • No problem at all! I love the interaction and if I wasn’t putting my focus on getting healthy I’d love the discourse. If you want to post a photo or link in the comments I would love it. For the first time in six years I’m considering going to our local Twelth Night. There are way more people I want to see than don’t and I recently bought some fabric… much.pondering which is about all the energy I have.

      Creative solution blessings!

    • Totally interested. It’s difficult on my brain to concentrate on finding solutions but a nice bridge is looking and reading! If my brain comes up with an idea, I promise to share. But honestly, your sharing with me really is good for recovery so bring it on. 🙂

  4. What a fantastic page! I think this is just the help I need. 🙂 I’m a newbee in this medieval world, and haven’t sewn anything but curtains and odd repairs for years. Managed to get together a Bocksten-inspired tunic and hoses for my husband, though. And now I have two weeks for gowns for myself and my 13-yrs daughter. Luckily I’m not working… Daughter wants (and can wear) a more fitted dress, so I’ll try this kirtle for her. I had a look at the Moy Bog, but that’s way too complicated for me. She refuses to wear wool, so it’s going to be linen.
    Strangely, I’ve never seen the word “Kirtle” used on any Scandinavian sites. Although it is almost the same as “kittel” in Danish, meaning knee-lenght dress or thin jacket, you put on to protect your other clothes while working. Or simply my grandmothers reference to her everyday-dresses.
    I wish you all the best in your recovery.

  5. Hi, I’m sorry to have been gone for so long! Wow, I really was gone for a month and I still haven’t made that page I was planning to make, oy. I will, hopefully this weekend. I fixed the chemise and it fits great now. Fortunately, I found where the yahoo group, SCA-Garb, moved to…they’re on Facebook if you’re interested. Anyway, I’m now in the hand-sewing all the visible seams phase and I think I’m getting faster and better at hand-sewing which is good because my kirtle will probably require a lot of it.

    Twelfth Night, yes, you should go! It will give you a great boost and it would be good to see old friends. I hope your ankle is better by then too.

    • I hope you have success!

      Unfortunately all I have is one the demo gallery of photos. This is very old site, I no longer do this, and I sold the garments a decade ago.


  6. Thank you so much for this! I’ve been looking all day on instructions for a Kirtle! Your blog has saved my sanity!!!!!

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