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The Leine

Courtesy of Matthew A. C. Newsome , of, and curator, Scottish Tartans Museum


What it is -

A Leine is a shirt. It is sometimes referred to as "the Saffron shirt"
Sometimes an undershirt, sometimes the only shirt they were wearing.
One point to bear in mind is that drawstrings in the sleeve of a leine is a contemporary development, coming out of American RenFaires in the 1960-70s
Be careful what advice you take.



Where & When was it found -

Leine's are specific to the Irish. Unfortunately, there is little definitive knowledge of Irish dress prior to the 1590s - mostly we just have English records bad-mouthing them



Making One


I. Measure from the nape of your neck to the desired length (suggested, ankle length or at least mid-calf).
II Measure from the end of your shoulder down across the length of your arm to the wrist, with your elbow bent.
III Measure from your fullest chest level under your arm, then over your shoulder and back to the fullest chest level. This is your underarm measurement. Divide by 2.
IV. Measure around your wrist. Make a loop with the tape big enough to get your fist through. Divide by 2.
V. Measure around the base of your neck. Divide by 2.

You will need a length of fabric twice as long as measurement I. This needs to be wide—it is suggested that 54" or 60" width material is used. This will make a very full body and skirt, as seen in the woodcut. For the sleeves, you will need two lengths of material as wide as measurement II and at least as long as measurement I. This will give you sleeves that hang down at least half way to the hem of your leine. You may add to this length as some sources describe the sleeves as hanging down to the shoes.

Take the material that is to be the body and fold it in half, right sides together, so that the selvedge ends form the two long edges. Fold in half again so that all selvedge ends are together. It is suggested that you iron the corner to form a crease. When you unfold the material you should have a creased cross in the center. This will be where the neck opening will be. It is unclear from the drawings exactly how the neck opening was done. You may choose to finish your neck any way that you deem appropriate based on your interpretation of the drawings. Here is an easy way to make a keyhole neck opening. Take a piece of material at least 17" long as wide as measurement V plus 6". Fold this material in half lengthwise and crease. Along this center crease mark a spot 3" in from the edge. From this spot, mark another point 7" in from the edge (or however deep you want the neck opening to be). Draw a line between these two dots. From this last mark, place another dot another 2" in, and then another 1.5" past this one. There should be 3" left beyond this point. Your fabric should look like this:





Now fold the fabric at the neck point at the mark between the 2 and 1.5 above, and crease. Measure out from the center line the distance of measurement V and mark. There should be 3" beyond this point. Then, from the first mark on the central crease at the edge of the material, measure out two inches in both directions. It should now look like this:





At this time, you should draw a line connecting the outer points, then the inner points of the neck opening, so that you have a shape like this:





Cut the fabric along the outer line but do not cut any of the inner lines at this point. Now you should lay this piece down on the material for your leine so that the crossed creases match each other, right sides together. Pin these pieces together.

Stitch around the neck opening and down each side of the 7" line to form a keyhole neck. At this point you should cut out the center of the neck hole about ˝" from the stitching. Then cut down the center front of the neck to the end of the 7" line.

Turn the facing to the inside of the garment and press into place. It may be a good idea to stitch another line along the neck opening to keep this in place but this is not necessary. You may want to try using red or green thread for contrast.

The next step is to add the sleeves of the leine. Take the material for one sleeve and fold and crease it down the center of the width. Place this material against the material for the body so that the center creases line up. Pin them together, right sides facing. You will want to measure out from this central point the distance of measurement III on each side and place another pin





Stitch the length of material together between the pins. Do this for both sleeves. Now fold the entire leine in half, right sides together. It should look like this.





At this point, place the leine over your head as you would wear it normally. You will find the shoulders to be large and droopy. Get a friend to help you gather this excess shoulder material into pleats going out from your neck. You should try to pleat the material on the shoulder so that the sleeve seam is in the proper place at the end of your shoulder. Do this the same on both sides and pin the pleating into place.

Lay the leine out flat and stitch the pleating down. I have no historic basis for this and you may choose to do it this way or cut the body of the leine so it is more fitting at the shoulders. I have done it both ways and find that the pleated method gives a very full effect that seems to be compatible with the descriptions of the leines that we have.





Now all that remains is to stitch the side seams. Fold the leine together in half, right sides facing. From the top seam of one of the sleeves, measure in a distance of measurement IV. Starting here, stitch the front and back together, down along the sleeve (you may wish to round off the seam along the bottom inside of the sleeve and trim off the excess), up into the armpit, then down along the side of the leine. Do this for both sides.

You may now finish the bottom hem of the leine in any way you see fit, either with a simple hem or an embroidered trim of some sort (although none are to be found in the drawings of the 16th century). The same can be done with the ends of the sleeves.

The last step remaining is to turn the leine right side in, and put it on. Wear it with a belt, and draw up the skirt so that the bottom falls above the knees for active wear.