East Kingdom Wiki: https://wiki.eastkingdom.org/index.php?title=Cathain_Reiter
Link to full documentation and photos: https://sites.google.com/view/hiddenponycrafts/other-projects/mary-of-hapsburg-hemd-sept-2020-jan-2021
Looking through history, there are very few extant examples of clothing that are intact and more than a few hundred years old. Most garments and construction methods we utilize come from fragments or artistic renditions of what was worn. One rare example of an actual extant garment is the Mary of Hapsburg hemd (a hemd is the German name for an underdress or chemise). This article of clothing was likely made between 1520 and 1530, and is currently on display in the Hungarian National Museum. It is a gorgeous piece, and ever since I saw pictures of it, I wanted to make both the hemd, and the green overdress it is paired with. While the overdress will have to wait its turn, it is finally time to put the hemd into the spotlight!
3.5 oz/yard linen
Size 6 silver passing thread (berlin embroidery)
Size 4 silver passing thread (berlin embroidery)
Silver passing thread (Tied to History)
Linen sewing thread
Fabric: The extant garment is described as being made from closely woven fine evenweave linen. Sumptuary laws of the area suggested hemds would be made of linen, since these laws placed restrictions on silks, velvets, and brocades, and indicated that linen hemds were viable wedding gifts (Greenfield). Since this is often portrayed as the underdress for a wedding outfit, that fits in with expectations of the time. For the recreation, a 3.5oz/yard linen was used. Having worked with it in the past, it is a nice texture and weight, holds up to smocking well, and is fairly evenweave. It seemed like it would be perfect for this job.
Silver Thread: Metalic thread during this time was used in both fabric and for embroidery. Typically, they “consisted of metal strips that were… wound around a fibrous core of silk, linen, cotton or other yarns…Pure gold, gold alloyed with silver, gilded or gilt silvered copper and gold like copper alloys… were used as the materials of the metal strips or wires… utilized in weaving and embroidery” (Jaro 40-42). I purchased 3 different types of thread to test for this. I wasn’t sure how well different sizes would hold up to embroidery, or how they would work. The end result is they all showed some wear, especially at the eye of the needle, but all 3 sizes and sources of silver thread worked well, and I actually ended up using all 3, since I apparently didn’t quite buy enough!
Considerations Before Construction
As previously mentioned, there are very few extant garments from this region and period; linen often does not survive time. While this shirt is a rare example, getting a lot of information on it actually isn’t that easy. There are no real descriptions of how it’s made, no detailed pictures of the sleeve embroidery or back embroidery, and no real descriptions of the embroidery beyond “satin stitch”, which is not what it looks like to my eye. I did try to get more information on this, and wrote to the Hungarian National Museum (I even have a co-worker who speaks Hungarian who offered his translation services to me). However, since this year has been tumultuous, I unfortunately never heard anything back. As such, I actually did need to base a lot of things on information from other extant examples I had more information on, and on knowledge I have obtained through my research and personal experience.