A soldiers coat

I’ve started on my next project after the panzar and I’m a little excited about it, because it gives me the perfect mix of using both solid written sources and my own imagination for interpretation and it’s not going to take forever to finish either.

Speculum humanae salvationis

Speculum humanae salvationis, Germany ca 1400.

It is a soldiers coat, made after specifications in the surviving 14th century documents that Albrechts bössor work with regarding what we call The Stockholm Mission. The Stockholm Mission is about Hanseatic soldiers sent to Stockholm in the late summer of 1395. Peters excellent article about it starts like this

After the war between Albrecht of Mecklenburg and Margareta, Albrecht and his son was imprisoned at castle Lindholmen in the region of Skåne in southern Sweden. In July 1394, after lengthy negotiations, it was agreed that the two Mecklenburgers should be set free for a ransom of an immense sum of money, equivalent to about 8 000 kilos (more than 17 600 lbs) of pure silver. In short, they were to be released for three years, in which they had to come up with the money, and the city Stockholm was to act as a kind of deposit. Stockholm was the only city in Sweden still controlled by the Germans and hence a thorn in Margareta’s side. During those three years, Stockholm was to be superintended by a group of Hanseatic cities (Königsberg, Elbing, Thorn, Danzig, Reval, Greifswald, Lübeck and Stralsund), as the cities had agreed to act as guarantors for Albrecht. For their troubles, Margareta should pay them an annual sum of 2 000 mark for the three years they administered Stockholm. Also, the cities Rostock and Wismar (the heartland of the Mecklenburg dynasty) should help out with considerable sums of money – 1 000 mark per year.

And later in the article –

The soldiers from the Prussian cities were paid both in fabric and in money. The men at arms was to be paid in 6 ells (1 ell = nearly 60 centimeters) of black and brown fabric (probably 2 ells wide) from Dendermonde (in Flanders), from which they should make “wide coats and hoods”, where the black should be on the right side and the brown on the left.

This is hot stuff! What it means is that the soldiers we are portraying are expected to have uniform coats and hoods during this mission in a foreign city. I’m not sure that the coats had to be identical in cut as well as in the colours, but it could still be the earliest source for use of some sort of uniform that I know of in this part of the world.

It took some time for us as a group to decide on what kind of fabric we were to use, was it to be hand woven or not, should we dye it ourself and in that case how to best go about it and so on. We came to the conclusion that cloth from Flanders would probably be high quality fulled wool. In order to get a hand woven fabric corresponding to medieval samples, we would also have to order yarn to be spun for the purpose as medieval fabric was made with yarn of a higher twist than modern fabric and it makes a world of difference in the end product. To have yarn spun in this scale before having fabric hand woven with it would cost a ton of money IF we could find someone we would trust to take the order and be able to deliver within reasonable time.

Eventually we decided on placing an order for commercial fabric for everyone in the group who wanted to be in on it, a reasonably natural brown shade and a natural dark grey wool for ”black”, in a quality that could well have been produced in 14th century Flanders.


My hood, plant dyed with green walnut hulls.

I can’t recall why we said we were not to dye it ourselves, I always plant dye my own fabric and it’s not that hard. In fact, during our lengthy discussions I made a test hood after the specifications in our sources and I dyed my fabric with green walnut hulls. I used the same dye-pot for both nuances, but the black is actually a very, very dark brown that just got to stay in the pot for longer time at a higher temperature. However, it turned out in the end that the group as a whole later decided to interpret the directions for ”black should be on the right side and the brown on the left” in a heraldic manner, meaning I got it wrong on my hood. I have recently started on taking the hood apart and intend on stitching it back together with the old inside out so I can have the black on my left, but that’s fine. It is not the first time I hand stitch something only to later undo it and put it together ”inside out” for one reason or another. I don’t mind, I’d do it out of respect for the fabric and the work put in to it, if nothing else. I will also make a new hood in the fabric our group finally got our hands on, but no way I’ll let the first plant dyed one be discarded. It will be cool to see how that colour fades while our new (yet unmade) hoods probably stays the same over time.


The basic cut for my ”wide coat”. It will be tailord a little to fit better over the shoulders etc.

My coat will be long and wide enough to not only function as an outer garment in general, but also go over my panzar, maile shirt and armour, because that is my interpretation of the purpose of a wide coat for a soldier. I happen to be the smallest soldier in the group by far and to finally have this as some sort of advantage, I decided on flaunting the fact that my 6 elles of fabric will suffice to much more for me than for anyone else. So I’m making these ridiculously huge baggy sleeves that are strangely common on depictions of late 14th – early 15th century soldiers.


Speculum humanae salvationis, Germany ca 1400.


Göttinger MS Philos. 63 Bellifortis, Germany ca 1400.


BL King’s 5 Biblia Pauperum, The Hauge, Netherlands 1395 -1404.


BSB Clm 3003 Speculum humanae salvationis, ca 1400 – 1410, Germany


Mock up pattern for my baggy sleeves, folded over. Hat for size reference.

The sleeves will probably be in the way when I try to strap my shield or tending to the fire or whatnot, but if it’s depicted as much as it is, I have to believe it. If no one else can make their fabric suffice for both coat, hood and huge baggy sleeves, I’ll do it for us as a group to be able to give a reasonably good representation of variety in our display of coats.

I have a lot more work to do on my coat, but here are a few pictures of the process, trying out the fit of the sleeve over my armour. Yes, I’m wearing my panzar and breastplate in the pictures and I’m very pleased with how it works and hardly shows – just like in some of the manuscripts, it is very discret. ”A wide coat” for a soldier, nothing more, nothing less.

Fitting the sleeve

Sleeves are now on and they are enormous, but they drape nicely.

Panzar III – Quilting



106236017_10158658556618829_4073847346389015741_oAfter my last article Panzar II I got some questions on Facebook about how I did the quilting, and I’m only happy to try to make things clearer, if I can. Quilting here means the visible stitching done on my panzar thurough layers of fabric (or fabric and some light padding), all sandwiched up. The quilting is done in lines that create a striped effect. The tighter the quilted lines, the more compact, smooth and tough the quilted material becomes. When I look in manuscripts, my perception is that certain parts of (the kind of textile armour prefer I to call) panzar is more often quilted in tighter lines than the rest – the arm below the elbow and/or the ”skirt” part below the waist.

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Choose your style

The first thing to do before one starts quilting is to decide for how you want the quilting lines to go, what look you are after. I may have made a mistake here. If I had paid better attention to how the fashion trends differ between countries in my sources, I would have gone for a more straight forward pattern than I did. Most typical for late 1390 and northern Europe would probably be a shorter panzar with vertical lines on the chest and horizontal below the waist. I did not realise until it was to late that the pattern I had started on seems to be a little Italian in style, but thankfully not uniquely so.

If you didn’t know, the Italian trap is a thing. Italian fashion can be very different in some aspects to that of northern Europe and not only because of climate and such, it is simply a different culture. I love the fact that we have many well preserved frescos and manuscripts from Italy, but they are often not representative for other areas during the same period, so I try to avoid looking at Italian pictures for my gear and I hate it when I step in the Italian trap anyway. I must be more careful in the future, but I cant help the Italians look so good all the time!

Draw the lines

To give my panzar an harmonic over all impression I started with a fixed measure – the 25 mm I always use between buttonholes when I make stuff for myself. I decided that it also was the perfect distance between quilting lines on most of the panzar. The lower sleeves was done with half that distance and I think it looks really good, don’t you? I didn’t measure the distance between individual stitches, but I tried to keep the needle in the same angle for every stitch as it went through the fabric. With a little practise, this helps to make the distance between stitches even.


The lower sleeves were quilted with only 12,5 mm between lines because it looks cool and similar to what I’ve seen in manuscripts

Passare för jämna rader stickningBoth sides of every piece was marked with stitching lines, but I drew just one line at a time so they would not become wonky or fade over time. To measure the distance between the lines I used a pair of compasses, the kind with a sharp pointy tip in one ”leg” and a piece of graphite in the other. The graphite was a little prone to rub off, but I decided that it was much better than the other way around, if it would stick to the fabric forever. Once a line was quilted, I drew the next one below, measuring at point by point from the row of stitches I had just done above. To make clear lines that would last long enough, I also used an erasable tailor pen with ink that disappear after a few days, or just wash off with water. To be on the safe side, I made sure to wash, lightly scrub and dry each piece when it was still fixed in the frame afterwards. This way the quilted pieces dried much faster and kept their intended shape very well.

Överarm i ram klar

Upper sleeve with slit prepared for a gore insert in the front, 25 mm between quilting lines

Alternatives for quilting in frame

There are other ways to work in a frame than the method I decided for. One very interesting method is described by Cotte Simple here in her reproduction of Charles VI:s arming coat. I haven’t tried her method because it gives a very different look than the one I’m after, a panzar much more sturdy than mine. I don’t know, but I think Charles VI:s arming coat is that kind of panzar you’d probably rather wear mail under, not over.

The first way of working in a frame I ever heard about I tried on parts of my old panzar. The difference from the one I used this time is that you don’t cut the individual pieces out before quilting. You work with a (more or less) square frame filled with layerd material. You stretch and fix it to the edges of the frame in such a way that you can adjust the tension of the fabric if needed. Then you draw your pattern in the middle of the frame and make sure to have some extra space around it as a buffer in case of shrinkage. You draw your quilting lines and start quilting from the middle, working outwards towards the edges.

The advantage of this method is that if you are making a padded garment, you have to be able to handle some shrinkage. As you start quilting from the middle and out, you can adjust your pattern outwards and re-draw the lines for the edges if you notice any tendency of shrinkage. What I don’t like about it is that I feel like there is a lot of material wasted on the sides around each piece when they are cut out from the frame. It also becomes a little fiddly to handle the seam allowance you need to close the edges afterwards and at the same time keep the right shape of the piece.

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My friend Erik let me borrow some of his pictures of his work in progress using this method. I’m so looking forward to comparing our experiences and results when he is ready!

Thank you Fil for asking about the quilting, it was good for me to go over it again and I hope I made it clearer this time. All questions are welcome, I love feedback on my writing!

Next article: Panzar IV – Buttons and closing, coming soon.


Panzar II – Framework

When Corona was declared a pandemic, I bought a nice roll of antique hand woven linen and started to work on a new panzar, almost hoping to end up in quarantine with it. In short, I took inspiration from the pattern of Charles de Blois pourpoint as I wrote in my last post where I also explained what a panzar is and why I use this term over other ones. I worked with my pattern in trial and error sessions, cutting and hand stitching pieces of thin cotton fabric together, shaping it on my own body until I had a fit I was happy with.



Alla mönsterdelar

My own pattern

After I had the mockup version in cotton ready, I made two paper versions of that pattern. One ”outer shell” with seam allowance added to it and one ”inner layer” without. I cut the outer layer in my best antique fabric. The inner layers for the ”core” of my panzar consists of several other bits and pieces of second hand linen in varying quality, also hand woven, but washed many times so that they had become soft and supple. I used from 4 to 7 layers of linen over the entire panzar, depending on where I thought mobility or extra protection was most important. The back and the lower arm below the elbow are the sturdiest parts, they won’t need much bending and I don’t have armour to cover them up (yet). The upper arm and shoulder are softer, maybe a little on the thin side, but the mobility is great.




I wanted to put a little padding in the chest and discovered after some testing that on me, a stuffed area about as big as my hand in the upper part of the chest would give just a subtle extra puffines. I’m not sure if I would do this again, I could just tailor the belly nicely and my protruding ribcage would do the job almost as good anyway, but it turned out well in the end. I knew that the thickness of the padding would give me trouble when working the buttonholes down the middle front later, so I decided to try to compensate a little for this by cutting away a strip of the heaviest linen from the ”core” along the buttonhole side, just as wide as I planned to make the buttonholes.

Tyglager och stoppning

Inside view of the front piece, without the innermost layer linen. I cut away a strip of the heaviest ”core” linen where I planned to make my buttonholes.

Rygg övre och nedre

Upper and lower back, all layers basted together. Almost all edges are whip-stitched closed after seam allowance have been folded in

I basted toghether all layers in the right order before I folded the seam allowance in over the core linen layers. Next I whip-stitched all around the edges on every piece of the pattern, closing them up, except for the lower parts that I knew I would have to trim later anyway. When I had come this far, it was finally time to prepare a first fitting, to see if I was on the right way.



I decided that I was well on my way, I only had to tighten up the side seams and cut the waist a little higher. But except for that, next step would be to get my toolbox out and start building wooden frames. This is where my panzar is different from most, not all, but most that I have seen. The quilting is done one piece at a time once the layers are put together and edges closed. Every piece has a frame especially made to fit for fixing and stretching it out, almost like an embroidery in a frame and for exactly the same reasons.

I’m no carpenter, I did really ugly frames from crap I had close at hand, but it worked. The most important thing is that all parts of the frame must be in the same level or else the tension will be uneven when you do the quilting and you could just as well skip this part. It won’t work unless every piece can be fixed flat. But when it works, it works like magic, it makes everything SO MUCH EASIER. It took some time to make the frames, but I have no regrets what so ever.



I hope you are asking yourself right now if they really did it this way, back in the 14th century, are you? The thing is that I haven’t been able to find a single contemporary depiction of textile armour in the making, so I had nothing to go on as for clues to methods of construction. A friend said he might have seen one, but then forgot where it was (story of my life, I always forget!)… But I do know that good quality medieval crafts was highly specialized. Professionals would have an interest in not revealing their business secrets. I haven’t seen panzar being made in a frame, nor have I seen it depicted being made in any other way. The fact that none of my friends have been able to produce a picture of how a panzar was made is truly a mystery, so if you have one, please let me know ok?

received_2921212388105786When we don’t know, we are left to guess or deduce our theories from other sources. My friends at indemejarecristi have hinted that a clue could possibly be that other quilted stuff would be stitched in a wooden frame, all stretched out, like an embroidery. It totally makes sense. When your project is fixed in the frame there is no need for you to hold or stretch the fabric. I quickly learned to work sitting on a chair, clasping the frame in between my knees. This way I could see either side of the fabric and work the needle with both hands. Another advantage of stretching the pieces out in frames is that you have control over any shrinkage that might happen and you can make sure that you draw your stitching lines evenly on both sides without the fabric moving around and messing it up. I used a pair of compasses and started drawing from either a straight or a curved edge, depending on what kind of pattern I wanted.



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Both sides of every piece was marked with stitching lines, I drew just one line at a time so they would not become wonky or fade over time. When one line was quilted and done, I took my magic marker pen and my compasses and dotted the next line, measuring even distance from the last one. This may sound like a lot of work, but it was fine, slow but satisfactory. One important part of the human perception of beauty is the harmony of symmetrical lines, our brains just love even lines and patterns. Our attention is drawn to anything that is slightly off, but what is even, our eyes can rest upon.

And speaking of rest – Thank you for reading this far! I think this will have to be enough for today. In next post I’ll write some more about the construction, mounting of sleeves, fitting, buttons and buttonholes and… Well, there is a lot more to say. Untill then, here is a proper picture of the panzar from the first time it was used, and yes, soaked. Why that happened is another story, for another day.


Photo: Cajsa Lithell, @larpology

Panzar I – New and better



I did a thing. I stitched myself a new and better panzar. I’m honestly very proud and happy with how it turned out, so I thought I would tell you all about it. Just a sneak-peak picture of the chest here, more will come, I promise.

”Panzar” is the word I prefer to use when I’m talking about a kind of quilted jacket that a 14th century soldier would wear, it could be either a thin one to fit under mail or a sturdier one as a stand-alone protective piece of armour. There are many other terms for this type of garment and I don’t claim to have found ”the right one”. If you read this you might think of what I call panzar as gambeson, aketon, paltok, pourpoint, doublet or whatnot.


Panzar worn under maile BNF Français 264 Ab Urbe Condita

The problem is that it is difficult to deduce names for types of armour from narrative sources and historical documents. The description is usually poor. English and French terms are mixed up with Latin or local terms and they change meaning over time. Sometimes a term used in one source for what must be one particular piece of armour (or clothing) is later used for what must be something else entirely – in the same document. The discussion about what to call types of medieval armour is probably not about to come to a final conclusion any time soon, so I think it best to decide for oneself what criteria to choose a preferred term from and then stick to it, while you try to stay in touch with the ongoing wider discussion.

A long time ago the Swedish reenactment group Albrechts Bössor (that I’m now a member of) decided to continuously search for 14th century words for armour in Swedish sources and use them, hence the term panzar – you can read more about it here. From the group’s ambition and the following research a lingo has developed and matured over time, but we are always ready to change our ways when we learn something new. It remains important to keep an open mind and have a general understanding for a wider variety of terms used in other countries or in the reenactment subculture as such.

Anyways – what do I need from my panzar and why do I need one in the first place? The background is that I’m part of said reenacment group who display Swedish/German soldiers (and their families) in the reign of King Albrecht of Mecklenburg in the late 14th century. We do not portray knights, but instead show the common soldiery connected to the Hanseatic towns of the time. We travel throughout Europe to show the daily life and equipment of Hanseatic mercenaries/conscripted militia. As is customary within Swedish reenactment, we perform both living history and battle reenachtment, all year round.


Some of the members of Albrechts Bössor and our friends, me in front. Photo: Vera Bos

This is why I aim to portray a soldier, the group as such and my belonging to it is more important than my actual personal expression within it. I chose to turn to Albrechts because I like the way the company always tries to get a little better at what they do, how serious they are in their portrayal and how much fun the members seemed to have together, not because I was looking for military reenactment. I’m not a fighter, but I think I can do a reasonably convincing militiaman or mercenary with the right equipment. That is why a really good panzar is important, it’s a sort of foundation that will help me do the mercenary thing.

The visual is very important to me, but it is not enough to end up with an expression that perfectly mirrors 14th century images of a common soldier. What rocks my boat is when I get to learn new crafts or develop my skills within those I’m already familiar with, pushing the limits on what I can achieve and how close I can get to the real thing. I want to feel it, I want to believe that sometimes I’m very close to what it really was like. This means that I try to work with the right materials and historical techniques. I do my research to the best of my ability (and with some help from my friends), occasionally experimenting a little based on what I already know.


My old panzar, dirty and bulky.    Photo: Pamela Garcia Briones

A panzar can be a part of the foundation for a soldiers armour, something to protect the skin from cuts and the painful nibbling of mail, or help attach plate armour. It could also, if it was thick enough (padded or with many layers of fabric), function as a stand alone piece of armour. I feel that the tradition within the reenactment has, for a long time, been to make rather heavily padded panzar and wear mail over it. So that is how I made my first attempt at a panzar. Since then I have come to realize that this bulky look is rarely seen in pictoral sources fron 14th century and I now believe that it is a misinterpretation. If the panzar is to be worn with maile, you’d want the textile foundation to be as slick and flexible as possible to promote good mobility and lessen the need for the amount of heavy maile needed to fit over it.


My first panzar looked ok, but after some use I felt that it wasn’t good enough. What I really needed was something to wear under my mail shirt that would offer as much protection as possible with as low a cost in bulkiness and weight as possible. I want my armour to allow me to take advantage of what I may have of speed and agility, so it must be well fitted. I’m aiming for that elegant hourglass profile we see on men in 14th century manuscripts, both in military and civilian context.


The Charles de Bloi pourpoint

For inspiration, I allowed myself to look at something that is a little bit off. The Charles de Blois pourpoint is a high-status silk garment. It is civilian, dated 1370-ish and French. All wrong. I’d prefer a proper surviving panzar from 1390-1410 in Sweden or northern Germany. But I only know of one existing garment similar to those on the pictures that inspire me. The Charles de Blois pourpoint with it’s grand assiette sleeves, (traces of) quilting, flat belly and protruding chest looks just right. It also has no waist seam in the front, only in the back, which would solve a problem I’ve had with my old panzar.


Ye olde panzare, back in 2018 when I just had changed the sleeves.

My old panzar is constructed a bit like the Charles de Blois pourpoint in that it is made with layers of cottonfelt. But instead of silk I used a store bought half-linen fabric that has linen in the weft and cotton in the warp. Medieval half linen fabric would have it the other way around as you want the strongest kind of thread going lengthwise in the loom (warp), taking all the tension during the weaving. Linen (flax) have longer fibers than cotton, so when spun, longer fibers makes stronger thread.

I hand stitched my first panzar over a period of several years, sometimes trying it on for an event, only to afterwards go back to fix things that didn’t work out. I started to make it in 2011 and gave up on it in late 2018. By then I had actually changed every single part of the original panzar, that is why it looks so fresh on the picture above… It still had many flaws, like the ugly piecing at the neck where I cut the neckline to deep and then had to fix it somehow. The main problem at that point was that the weight of the ”skirt”-part below the waist was pulling in the waist seam and the fabric in that area, tearing and stretching it. This created a vulnerable spot just where my breastplate ends.


Ye olde panzar in 2017, before the change of sleeves

At this time I had become more active in our military and fighting displays but not yet found a maile shirt in my size, so it really was a bit of a safety issue. I wouldn’t make that mistake again when drawing a new pattern for the next panzar, I had to make a better pattern. My plan was to draw something a little similar to Charles de Blois pourpoint. It should have proper grand assiette sleeves, clean and tidy quilting lines, 2 panels in front, waist seam only in the back and (almost) no padding, just layers of hand woven linen. That was the idea, now I just had to get started.

Next, in Panzar II: Getting started – choice of fabric, the making of pattern and a method for stitching, etc. AND more pictures of my new panzar, so you can have a proper look.

Yttertyg veck

Very old linnen, hand woven and unbleached. This is how it begins.