One should have a solid basic understanding of Rectangular Construction (which is not solely rectangular but consists of several geometric shapes) before beginning to make a surcote in the manner described here. These patterns are based on the Greenland finds. Please see below for links to some online sites with Greenland garments. I spent three years making exclusively rectangular clothing, everything from a Bocksten tunic, to Norse tunics and aprons, to very tight and very supporting Middle Eastern and nomad vests.
From there I began making kirtles that were body hugging and that support the female bosom but in a manner that flattens the bust-line not raising it.
This demo is for an unlined surcote. While we do know from wardrobe accounts that some outer garments were lined, there is ample evidence that just as many were not. It depends on the garment and on the social status and finances of the wearer. You may choose to line your surcote or just its sleeves. I find that there is no need to line my surcotes in the Pacific Northwest as the weather is so temperate.
- Fabric: The best materials for kirtles are wool, linen, and silk. There are written references to all fibers being used for garments in period. So feel free to use any of these. If you are tempted to use blends, and it IS tempting, be aware that you take risks. The risks as I see them are that the fabric doesn’t
breath and heat and overheating becomes a great health risk. Rayon or other fibers, man made or otherwise, can be torture on a warm, not to mention, hot day.
- Thread: Wool, linen, and silk have been used in period for garment construction. All are also used to garment embellishment. If you decide to use a polyester thread or something similar this can tear your wool under certain circumstances. I prefer wool for basic constructions and waxed linen for details such as facings. Silk I use for eyelets, buttons, and buttonholes.
- Embellishments: Silk for fingerwoven braid to trim your sleeves, hems, and neck.
- Notions: Beeswax for waxing linen thread (strengthens thread), small scissors for utting buttonholes and triming facing bits, and an eyelet awl.
There are several good online sources for discussions on rectangular construction theories and methods. Please visit the following for further inspiration and instruction:
Resources for extant rectangular constructed garments: