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Last Friday and over the weekend I put together a list of 16th century English wills that are available through google books.


Some highlights include the Sandwich Book of Orphans which gets into orphans their wardship or guardians and the cost of their upkeep. Most interesting is the record of Tomasine Wolters, it covers the repair of her houses, the amount of rent her properties collected, the repairing of her shoes and purchase of her wardrobe and other necessities.


Another interesting tidbit (in a different document) was the mention of a possible linen kirtle.

“..To Effam Hargrave widow one lyne kertle and my white petticoate”

The full will is here.

It started a good debate on FB, did that mean linen, did that mean lined? I haven’t run across any other mention of a kirtle like that before. So I did some digging, drawing on Drea Leed’s database for variations on how linen was spelled in period.

“linen” “lening” “linnen” “lynon” “lynen” “lynne” “linninge” “lynnynge” “lyn clothe” “lin[en]” “lynn[en]” “lenone” “lin clothe” “lynenn” “lynnyne” “lynnyn” “lynuen” “lynnen” “lawn” “lockram” “cobweb lawn” “cobweb lawne” “copwebbe lawne” “cobwebbe lawne” “cobwebe lawne” “copweb lawne” “copwebb lawne” “band of lane” “lane slevis” “layn” “lawne” “lokeram” “lokorame” “lockeram” “lockrom” “locram” “loceram”

And I ran it through the will I had collected, then I pulled out anything that wasn’t the usual coif or tablecloth.

Snippet view couldn’t get what year
15788 Item vij paire of Sleves three of linnen clothe and iiij of Lawne wroughte with golde and Silke.

1587 – Will of Roger Simpson
2 lynnynge apprens, 2 linninge churchef, 3 napkins, one payre of lynne sleves….

1606 Sandwich Book of Orphans
 It m paid Tho Horsman formakinge a Dublet a paire of hoose and a wastecote he fynding lenone for tho Dublet for Tho Ingram iiij s ij d

1564 Mychaell Clerkson Testamentum
A pair of lynnyn sleves and a pair of fusshyn sleves, xijd

1592 Will of Richard Rawstorne
I geve 8m unto Ralph Hoult one sute of my worst apparell To Edward Nuttall a paire of gray breeches laid wth vj laces and one dublet of milion fustion and my best paire of netherstockf saving one To Rogger Pilkington one paire of lynuen breeches cutt To my sonne Henry my best oloake best dublet best jirkin and my best hose To William Pilkington one dublet of cutt canvas and one paire of new shooes ..

Snippet view couldn’t get what year
one lynnen apperne

So no other kirtles but the one mentioned, but it may crack the door open an inch to the possibility of them.



Originally published at Centuries-Sewing. You can comment here or there.

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I have a friend who lives in the wilds of Oklahoma, her local medieval fair runs for only three days. She has needed a costume to attend just for fun but being a fellow history nerd wanted something that would work. Her fair set in 1360, it has a different flavor than my local fair that tends toward the 1540’s which means my go to comfy bodice and skirt kirtle wouldn’t really fit.

A few years before we got some lightweight wool suiting in plum color from Fabricmart and then I sat on it like an egg as we went back and forth over what style of dress she wanted.

  • Bliaut? (which we started to call a blablahblu because we were never sure of how to pronounce it..) It is earlier than the fair timeframe, but she liked the look of them (Possibly watching too much Brother Cadfael at a young age.) Buuuut large flappy sleeves can get in the way and being able to get dressed by yourself is a good thing.
  • Go for an Elizabethan kirtle anyways cause I can make those in my sleep? Fashion forward!

We pinned a lot of photos, used historical doll makers to share ideas and when she came down in 2014 for my wedding I got her measurements, drafted a block, and fitted a mock-up.

The best-laid plans…

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Centuries-Sewing. You can comment here or there.

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The majority of the inventory excerpts are transcripts from http://www.anastasiorojo.com however, the translations and missteps are my own. I’ve found a handful of cueras mentioned in inventory lists. Some are made of leather, others of fabric, they are cut, trimmed and in one instance lined in velvet. This is by no means exhaustive and in some entries, I’ve included non-cuera garments as they were listed.



cuera: yten una cuera de cordovan con beinte y dos botones de oro;
One jerkin of leather with twenty-two gold buttons

yten una cuera de cordovan bieja aforrada en bayeta negra
One old jerkin of leather lined with black baize



quera: yten una quera de raso negro sajado;
a pinked/cut jerkin of black satin

yten una quera de terçiopelo negra forrada en felpa parda;
A jerkin of black velvet lined with brown plush

yten una cuera de terçiopelo berde;
An old velvet jerkin

yten un jubon de raso negro picado y pespuntado muy roto;
A very old doublet of quilted(?) black satin

una cuera guarnezida de pasamanos de oro aderezada con anbar
A jerkin decorated with gold lace and trimmed with amber(?)

yten una cuera de raso guarneçida de terçiopelo
A jerkin of satin trimmed with velvet

yten sus cuera y mangas de lo mismo
Another jerkin and sleeves of the same




quera: yten una quera tapetada de cordoban bieja
An old black leather jerkin


cuera: una cuera de cordovan llena de pasamanillos aforrada en terciopelo negro con mangas de lo mismo;
A leather jerkin with narrow lace lined in black velvet with sleeves of the same

otra quera de cordovan camuzada llena de rebeticos de raso negro aforrada en tafetan negro;
A leather jerkin of ( Camuzada, possibly Gamuzada – Chamois color?)  with black satin and lined with black taffeta

otra cuera picada con un pasamano biexo.
An old pinked jerkin with trim



“Richer than We Thought: The Material Culture in 16th Century St Augustine”

2 cordovan doublets

Goods of Dona Mayor de Arango (1570) http://elizabethancostume.net/cyte/node/239

Originally published at Centuries-Sewing. You can comment here or there.

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Long have I coveted Scott Perkin’s leather jerkin, which is based off the jerkin at the Museum of London and written about in Janet Arnold’s “Pattern of Fashion”.

Scott's Leather Jerkin

Scott’s Leather Jerkin

Leather Jerkin from the Museum of London

Leather Jerkin from the Museum of London

But I am not a leather worker*, I didn’t want to get a very nice hide and ruin it with my amateur attempts. So I filed the idea away in the back of my head until one night I came across some leather on eBay.

dark brown leather for the jerkin

It was cheap and looked like there was enough to make a jerkin, one press of the buy now button and I good. The blitheful glow of a new project set in. I started planning out how I wanted it to look, what buttons I would need, to slash or not to slash?

But then I realized an important question needed answering, did women ever wear leather jerkins?

The common assumption is that it’s a male garment with origins as armor, and possibly evolved into the 17th-century buff coat. (I am not an armor historian if this is incorrect please let me know.)


In “Patterns of Fashion”, Arnold mentions:

“Alcega gives pattern diagrams of some petticoats or skirts (‘saya’) with ‘a jerkin, a little cassock such as women use in Spain’ as Minsheu translates ‘sayuelo’; others are with a ‘cuera’, translated by Minsheu as ‘a Spanish leather jerkin’. The latter is a bodice which has apparently taken its name from the leather from which it was once made.”

The diagram referenced in the quote

Saya y cuera de pano
Language is a living thing, the meaning of words change. In my look through the English translation of Alcega’s book, I found some of the translations questionable, but I am inclined to agree. Paño or cloth, being mentioned in the layout means it is not being made from leather.


Lexicon Tetraglotton, an English-French-Italian-Spanish Dictionary 1660 lists the following:

1660 definition of jerkin
1660 Cuera leather jerkin 1660 Cuera Cow Leather
1660 cordovano


Part 2: Digging through some Spanish and English Inventories.


*I did make a leather jerkin a long time ago out of chrome tanned suede cut from skirts from the thrift store. I looked like a badass female Iago in it, but I’ve learned a great deal about sewing since then.




The Mauritshuis collection Anthonis Mor van Dashorst (and studio), Portrait of a Man, 1561

Libro de Geometria, Pratica, y Traça

Lexicon Tetraglotton, an English-French-Italian-Spanish Dictionary 1660




Originally published at Centuries-Sewing. You can comment here or there.

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I’m in need of a new underskirt or petticoat for my 16th century clothing. I’ve been using the same cotton broadcloth one I made back in 2005, for years now. It is serviceable, but it adds a lot of bulk at the waist and it isn’t very authentic in construction or materials.

So it is time to for a new one.

I have 3.5 yards of a lovely wine colored, lightweight worsted wool donated to me by Noel. (Thank you Noel! <3 )

I’ll be drafting the pattern on the fabric and  hand sewing the whole thing with linen thread.


wine red wool and thread


I’m working from the Spanish version of Alcega’s Book. The english translation is out-of-print and painfully expensive. I’m not a native nor fluent spanish speaker so google and a few other resources will be heavily used.

I’m using the translated chart of symbols from the tailors book into modern inches from the Curious Frau’s site.

Taking some inspiration from Other Andrew’s The Alcega Project.

And keeping in mind the information  of the Modern Maker has posted about his study of the patterns on his blog and on the Elizabethan Costume Facebook group.



Definition from “Nuevo diccionario portatil, espanol e ingles: compuesto segun los mejore…

Manteo: s, m : a church man’s cloke; a woman’s under petticoat.

Language is a fluid thing, always changing. The above definition is from 1728 far later than the 16th century. However even later dictionaries simply list it as a cloak or mantle. Context is key, when it is listed as Manteo de Muger, chances are it is a skirt.

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Originally published at Centuries Sewing: Historical Costumes and Clothing. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve started a small collection of images from Civitates Orbis Terrarum from the Historic Cities website. More to come when I have time to comb through all the different versions and crop and adjust the files.


Civitates Orbis Terrarum 1572: Barcelona, Spain

More from Civitates Orbis Terrarum: 1572

Originally published at Centuries Sewing: Historical Costumes and Clothing. You can comment here or there.


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