For many years I’ve had two fabrics in my stash. One meter of a wonderful, white, printed cotton lawn, and a couple of metres of a vividly red, handwoven and plant dyed, woolen twill. Both fabrics has kind of a story to them. The cotton lawn I got as thanks/payment for allowing some of my photos to be shown on an exhibition, and the wool twill I bought on an online auction. The seller lived up north in Sweden and had wrote in the item description that the fabric was woven by her grandmother, and after a little email correnspondance I was told by the seller that her grandmother had lived in Blekinge – the county I grew up in! A wonderful coincidence.
I had always had a plan for the cotton lawn to become an apron, and the wool twill to become a skirt, but it wasn’t really until this year I properly decided that I was going to make an apron and a skirt for my folk costume of it. As always, I find a lot of inspiration in original garments and items, as well as from the amazing women who run Blekingelivet.
Högtidsdräkt – Festive wear
In the mid 19th century – as today – people would dress up for special occasions. . Church on Sundays had its own particular dress, and everyday wear was something different. Weddings, some Christian festivals, etc., meant to dress up in the absolute finest.
Looking at what’s in the museums collections and in paintings from the time, it looks like red skirts are common for the absolute finest clothing. Often red skirts with woven patterns (i.e. this one that is seen to the left below), or with silk mixed in, but also some less fancy with just a plain weave, barely fulled wool (like this, seen to the right below). In written and/or oral sources, it is said that the red skirt could have been used by the bride, and otherwise when you wanted to look your best (Swe: “annars till fint”). (Nordlinder, E. 1987)
I have mainly based my skirt off of the left one in the photos above, with the exception of the fabric. My fabric is, as I wrote before, is a handwoven wool twill, with no pattern what so ever. The original has quite a big piece of linen fabric at the front – in Swedish called sparvåd, or djäknalapp. It is there to save the precious fabric, since it is not visible when you wear your apron on top – as you always should. In some instances they have also saved on some of the silk ribbon following along the hem in the same fashion. Smart right? Since I had a limited amount of fabric, I decided to do the same with my skirt. I picked out some handwoven linen scraps from my stash to act as the sparvåd, and sewed my skirt.
My skirt is entirely handsewn, as I prefer to sew things by hand. It has a waistband, and the skirt is sewn to this. In the front it is flat, with knife pleats going inwards over the hipbones. Over the rest of the skirt the fabric is gathered with what was supposed to be parallell gathers, but the gathering thread broke as I was fixing the gathers. Ah well, such things that happens – we’ll see if I ever get around to fix it. On the left side of the linen piece there is a slit, to get in and out of the skirt, which closes with hooks and eyes. In the future I plan to put a silk ribbon along the bottom, but otherwise it is now done.
The fabric of my apron might not be perfect. Historically it would have been in a fabric called linong, a thin cotton weave with woven in pattern, as the gorgeous apron that is this museum piece, or this one that is held in the collections of Blekinge Museum – both pictured below. Mine is, as I stated above, a printed cotton lawn, but it gives the same expression as the woven one would.
My apron is quite simple. It is hemmed with narrow hems in the side, and a wide one at the bottom. The wide hem at the bottom is also mentioned in passing in Nordlinder, 1987, when an oral source tells about the aprons used at the Christian confirmationm, and also in Dahlin’s writing from 1937. My apron is gathered to a waistband that continues out from the skirt of the apron for 15 cm, and is then finished with ties. Much like the apron I made in 2015, except that this one is gathered all the way, and that the ties are different in length.
Now, I’ve been thinking a bit about the pairing of specifically these two items. I don’t really think that a see-through apron like this one would have been worn with skirt with a linen piecing, since part of the point of wearing it over a dark skirt is to have the pattern of the apron shine through. So, they don’t quite match in the end. I’m not sad though – I see it as a reason to make new skirts and aprons. Lucky me! 😉
Dahlin, I. Blekingedräkten. Blekingeboken (1937). – New print from 1987 by Blekinge Läns Museum
Nordlinder, E. (1987). Kvinnligt dräktskick i Jämshögs socken i Blekinge. Stockholm
2 thoughts on “Blekingedräkt: An apron and a skirt”
What lovely pieces and how amazing to have a textile with such heritage (and to be able to then make it into folk dress from the same place as the weaver was from!). That is such an amazing story. I hope it will be treasured for a long time.
(I also, as an aside, can’t help but notice the interesting chair-like side-saddle used by the woman in red on the white horse in the first image. The saddle does not seem hugely dissimilar to medieval side-saddles (but very different to side-saddles in the UK in the 19th and later centuries. Very interesting!)
Thank you! It feels amazing to be the one to use the fabric, and most likely to the same end as it was intended to. The seller told me that it was intended for a skirt when it was woven too, so I felt immidiately connected to the fabric. It is already, and will definitely be treasured in the future!
Wow, I didn’t know! Check this link for another version of this painting where the bride is painted in more detail: https://live.uppsalaauktion.se/view/large/2131564.jpg