Sky Above, Hills Around



Bethany Hundley

(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographs by Ruth Miller

Outline the story …

This outfit, my first historical one, was created for a Renaissance festival. While not "historically accurate," I kept the appearance as correct as possible. I chose to make a 1490's kirtle because it seemed the least intimidating part of the Renaissance Era since it had simple lines and no supportive undergarments.

After deciding to focus on Germany, I researched pictures and writings to learn what was distinctly theirs. Kirtles had fitted sleeves and low, square necklines with guard stripes around the skirt, neckline, and vertically down the bodice front. Guards were universally black, but I opted for cream to upcycle a linen tablecloth. I adore cloaks, so I instantly knew I had to have a gollar (the shoulder-cloak) with the common high collar. The wulsthaube was an iconically German headdress. I made mine with a smaller size roll, which I found to be more flattering.

The blackwork embroidery designs are from the period, and everything except the birds are from German manuals. The kirtle recalls a bright summer sky with clouds and birds flying across it. The apron represents the hills with acorns, wind swirls, and flowers. The same flowers are echoed in smaller form among the vines in the band around the headdress.

I consider this outfit to be the farmer's wife's best dress. Like her, I can't afford silk or fur. Instead, I embellished inexpensively with embroidery and a matching, decorative apron. The 21 sleeve buttons, an excessive amount, give texture and interest but are made using scraps.

Outline the construction…

100% cotton or linen

There were many new skills to learn for this. I had made a few modern garments from paper patterns, but they were basic and made with little understanding of what I was doing.

The embroidery for this project is the first time I made embroidery I am actually proud of. It is hand stitched using two overlapping running stitches. Dolthalion on YouTube taught me that I could trace a pattern onto the fabric from graph paper using a light table and watercolor pencils, which wash out. With the first piece that was "right," I immediately decided it had to go everywhere.

The apron has spaced cartridge pleats along the top, which I had never heard of before. The gollar is constructed from a circle with curved guards applied on top and a single hook at the neck.

The kirtle was my first attempt at drafting a pattern (thanks Morgan Donner for the great YouTube tutorials!), so it took a lot of mockups and resewn seams to get it right. It spiral laces up the front with hand sewn eyelets and has a cartridge pleated skirt. There are a few bones along the seams to smooth the fabric. Each button is a circle gathered up to form a ball and fastens with thread loops.

The wulsthaube has a cap, then a cloth covering the head with a padded roll attached. The outer veil is tied and twisted over top with the embroidered band tacked around the edge.




  1. Avatar Christiane Christiane Edel on May 4, 2023 at 10:41 am

    Love the embroidery!

  2. Avatar Steffi Wee on May 10, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    I love love love blackwork embroidery, and the outfit comes together so nicely!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.