Making an Irish Leine: Medieval costume

Several months ago I put together a Gallowglass costume to wear as an extra in a film. I only had a couple of weeks to put it together, and i wanted to make as much of it as possible. In the end I made a medieval robe or leine, a leather belt and pouch, about 1m^2 of chainmail and a sword. This wasn’t bad but I had hoped to finish the outfit off with a helmet and a full mail hauberk, plus a sgian knife.

The leine was made out of around 3m of loose weave linen fabric that i picked up at a habardashery in town for £7 a meter, which really isnt bad. I used a pattern for a T-tunic, so beloved of the SCA, and added long sleeves and extra gores (triangular inserts) to bulk it out a little:


This image (from an osprey publication I think)shows what I was aiming for. The yellow “dresses” the warriors are wearing are the leines, here is what I came up with:


Sorry about the blurry picture, always a danger when you give your phone to someone else for a photo!

Here is the leine hanging up after sewing and dying, and a shot of it in the dye bath:

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According to the records of the time, the cloth was dyed with saffron to get a deep, almost orange colour. I decided to give it a go, with a little tea added to the mix to improve staining power. The strips draped over the sides of the bucket are undyed cloth, and demonstrate the colour difference quite well. In reality, I needed much more saffron to get a really good colour but I just couldn’t afford it! My friend who went up with me dyed his with dylon, and got  very good result. We also reckon tumeric is worth a go.

In the end, it got totally destroyed by the grease on the chainmail, which seeped around the edges of the aketon i was wearing underneath, but I redyed it a mottled green and I’m sure it will be pressed into service again at some point!

There were some Irish reenactors in the camp with proper leines, which were pleated much like a kilt, but over the entirety of the cloth’s surface. Well worth a go at some point, padded defences like that are great to wear as they breathe and still provide quite a lot of protection.

All in all it was a good weekend and I had a great time, as you can see from my grin!


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