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.

Detta bildspel kräver JavaScript.

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.

Detta bildspel kräver JavaScript.

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 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.