- The leine is the basic unisex garb of the Celts, often
worn under other clothes.
- Spelling - I've seen leine, leinna, leinte. The word means "shirt", and
I believe the modern spelling is leine.
- Early descriptions of the leine from 5th cent. - 12th cent.
- long smock-like linen garment, ankle-length. Either sleeveless or with straight
- Big baggy sleeves date from the 1500’s and later. (Don’t let this stop you)
Molly ni Dana says: "The big baggy sleeves many people are familiar with are a
later fashion, though quite fun, and there's no reason not to make your leine with
these sleeves if you want to, they'll just be 16th century rather than
early period." (from an article listed in the webpages at the bottom)
- Men wore belted and bloused. About mid-calf length before blousing.
- Women wore to ankle length.
- Well-off women wore with overskirts & overdress
- At home/in private likely worn alone
- In general - longer indicates higher status. Shorter leine was for those
who had to do a lot of manual labor. A leine with LOTS of fabric meant
1) you could afford the fabric,
2) you did little enough manual labor not to be hampered by it.
In their efforts against the Irish culture, the English imposed laws stating
the maximum # of yards that could be used. It is difficult to translate this
amount, since cloth of the time was not as wide as it is now. But it makes it
clear that a lot of fabric was preferred, both in the sleeves and pleated to
Reconstructing History provides us with these Statutes regarding the léine,
quoted by Cáisín nic Annaidh:
In a a letter from Henry VIII to the town of Galway, 28 April, 1536:
Item, that no man, woman, or child, do wear in their shirts or smocks, or
any other garments, no saffron, nor have any more cloth in their shirts or smocks,
but 5 standard ells of that country cloth.
An act of Henry VIII forbid any person in Ireland after 1 May, 1539 to
dress their hair in the Irish fashion or to:
...weare any shirt, smock, kerchor, bendel [band or ribbon], neckerchour,
mocket [bib or handkerchief], or linnen cappe coloured, or dyed with Saffron, be
yet to use, or weare in any of their shirts or smocks above seven yards of
cloth to be measured according to the King's Standard, and that also no woman
use or weare any kyrtell, or cote tucked up, or imbroydered or garnished with
silke, or courched [overlaid, embroidered] ne layd with usker [usgar Irish for
jewels], after the Irish fashion, and that no person or persons, of what estate,
condition or degree they be, shall use, or weare any mantles, cote, or hood,
made after the Irish fashion.
- Leines were heavily decorated. Look for
trim, and consider embroidery. It's hard to find appropriate trim, so when you
find a source, get their info! (Many places mailorder through catalogs or the web.)
There are descriptions of leines with two handspans of embroidery around the hem.
Wow! But it's better to have a plain leine than no leine - you can always add
embroidery or trim later, or on your next leine.
- Ok, you've prewashed your fabric, ironed it, measured and cut out all your
pieces, ironing them again if necessary.
- Stop and consider decoration. (Ok, ideally you plan this before you ever
bought the fabric. But now's a good time to consider it again.) Do you want
to add trim? Have you found your trim? Would you like to do some embroidery
on the leine? Now's a great time for that. It's a lot easier to embroider on
a leine before you've sewn it. I have an example to show.
- Take your two front yoke pieces, and where they were cut on the fold,
iron that fold in. Run a seam down the edge of it - right at the very edge.
This is optional but adds definition.
- Next step is to make the collar. We did a sample run on paper in the
class. If you're going to make cuffs for your sleeves, go ahead and do that
now, too - it's the same process.
ADDING NOTES FOR WEB READERS. I usually show people how do to the collar.
You may have done the same thing on many garments. Take the rectangle and
fold it into a W shape. That is, fold it in half the long ways, then take
the two edges and fold them down the outside. Does this make sense?
Then you sew down the open edges of the W, then turn it inside out.
You end up with a collar-shaped rectangle with no exposed open fabric edges.
- Next step is to join the back yoke, the two front yokes, and the collar.
Probably the trickiest bit. Pin the center of the collar to the center
of the back yoke. Line the inner edges of the front yokes up with the
center of the back yoke, then pin the outer edges of the front yokes
to the outer edges of the back yoke. Start pinning the front yokes
to the back yoke, from the outer edge in, for a few pins. Now fold
the outer edge of the collar piece into the center of the collar, so
you find the spot that is 1/4 of the way in. There you're going to
pin the back, the collar, and the front all together. From this point
to the edge of the collar it gets pinned diagonally to the front yoke.
Eventually that triangle will get cut off of the front yoke. (DON'T
cut it off when you're pinning. Wait until you've sewn it and are sure
it came out right.) We repeat this with the other side. Sorry, I know
it's hard to describe this really well in words.
Notes for the web readers - I was asked in class how you know how far
diagonally to lay the collar and the yoke. The answer I had was just
far enough so that the end of the collar intersects the edge of the fabric.
This is SO much easier for me to show. . .if you make a leine, and you're
anywhere near me, I would be happy to get together with you and show this
to you. I'll see if I can take a picture of the collar/yoke assembly before
I finish the leine I'm working on.
If you DON'T want a collar, it is still best to take the measurement
for one. Then you pin the front yoke to the back yoke until you get
to 1/4 of the collar measurement from the center, then stop. I wouldn't
make any diagonal cut on the front yoke if you weren't going to use a
collar, I would just run a seam right along the very top edge of the
front yoke to stitch the two pieces of the front yoke together.
(It's cut on the fold, so it's doubled material)
I hope that
- Ok, now let's pleat the back to the back yoke.
Take your time. Lay them down, right sides together, yoke first and
the back on top. Pin the left edge of the body to the left edge of
the yoke, and the right edge of the body to the right edge of the yoke.
Find the center of the back, and the center of the yoke, and pin them
together. Now find the center of the right half of the back, and the
center of the right half of the yoke, and pin them together. Keep
finding the centers and pinning them until you're down to a small
enough space to fold pleats under and fold them. Then go over and
repeat all this on the left half. I recommend you fold all pleats
on the right side towards the right, and all pleats on the left towards
the left, so they go outward from the middle.
***See note at bottom for nursing garb***
- Hi! I came up with a better idea last time I tried
this. I had the iron out, so I just started by folding the back and yoke
pieces in half, and ironed the top couple of inches of the fold. I did
the same for the quarter, ironed that fold, too. Then I opened it, and
folded each quarter section in half, and ironed those folds, again just
the top couple of inches. Then I could just lay them out with the fold
lines lined up, and pin those, then fold the pleats inbetween. Hope that
makes sense. It was easier.
- Whew. You may have to take
it apart and repin, if it doesn't come out evenly. Be patient, don't
- Great, now you can sew those pieces together.
- Now we're going to do the same sort of thing for the front piece and
the two parts of the front yoke. Only difference here is that we have to
pin the inside edges of the two front yokes together to the front body piece.
Pin. Swear under your breath. Repin. Sew.
- If you want the kind of
sleeve that has cords running through it and is adjustable, we need to work
on it now. (If you want trim on the wrist, think this whole process
out before you do it, and plan how you're putting the trim on and when.)
You need a long rectangle of fabric - about 3-4 inches wide, and about as
long as your sleeve. (You may be able to use bias tape.) Time for some
ironing. Iron the two long edges under. Iron the two short edges under.
(This is to protect the open edges) Open up the sleeve and lay it down with
the inside side up. Lay the strip down along the length of the sleeve, with
the folded under short edge right at the wrist. (Folded under edges down)
The other short edge will be towards (but not all the way to) the shoulder.
Pin this in place. Run one seam all the way up one long edge. Run another
seam all the way down the other edge. Run another seam along the middle of
the strip, from right at the wrist to almost to the other end of the strip.
Do NOT run any seams ACROSS the strip at either end. I hope this makes sense
- easier in class, I could show it to people!
- Now we're going to pin the sleeves to the front & back yoke. Remember,
the edge with the selvedge is the wrist. The other end is the shoulder.
Lay the yoke & body combo out right side up, lay the sleeve shoulder
on it right side down. Find the center of the straight shoulder edge and
pin that to the point where the front and back yokes meet. Pin down the
front and the back. The sleeve will be deep enough that you can pin it to
part of the front and back body pieces as well. Sew the pieces together.
Repeat for the other sleeve.
- If you wanted pleated sleeves, now is
the time to work that out. (
Here's that picture again)
If you're putting cuffs on, sew them to the ends
of the sleeves now. (Or at least pin them on - you need it to estimate length
of sleeve accurately.) To sew on the cuffs, place the right side of the cuff
against the right side of the sleeve, at the wrist. You should have the open
side of the cuff next to the wrist edge. Pin, sew, fold over, and iron down.
If you're putting trim along the pleats, you may want to just pin the cuffs.
- Put the leine on. Measure from the sleeve/shoulder seam to where you want
the end of the sleeve to be at your wrist. Take the leine back off and lay it
down on a table or ironing board. Have your measuring tape out next to it.
Start folding and pinning pleats from just below the shoulder sleeve down to
the wrist. I recommend you pleat it so that all the pleats are going down
the sleeve. Make even pleats, with your best guess of size, until you've
pleated down to the wrist. Measure the length now. How close is it to your
earlier measurement? Grumble, growl, unpin, repleat. It can be tedious, but
you're just pinning, you can take it back apart and it's fine. You have to do
this for both sleeves - try to get them as close to identical as possible.
This is a great place to put trim on. I recommend you sew the pleats down by
themselves first, with a pair of seams, probably best spaced just narrower
than your trim. Then pin the trim along the pleats and sew it down. Remember
to fold the top edge under. If you just pinned the cuffs, you can take the
cuffs off for a moment, and run the trim under the edge of the sleeve, then
fold it over, and sew it shut. Then pin the cuffs back on and sew them. Be
careful - that section where you're sewing over the trim will be thick and
tricky to put through a sewing machine.
- Ok, this is really starting
to resemble a leine! Flip the whole thing inside out. Start at the wrist
end of one sleeve. Pin the bottom of the wrist seams together, then pin
along the curve of the baggy sleeve. When you get up near the armpit - it's
time for the gusset. This is the other tricky bit. Don't look at the gusset
as a square, think of it as a diamond. Your under-edge-sleeve seam splits
and goes along two sides of the diamond. The other two sides of the diamond
take the edges of the front & back body pieces, then those two rejoin.
(Gosh this is hard to describe in words.) Now you can pin the front and back
body pieces together down the side. Go ahead and sew what you've pinned.
When you get to the gusset part, go very slowly and carefully. You may want
to sew that part by hand.
- Repeat that last step for the other side.
- Wow, getting close. Ok, if you picked the adjustable sleeves, it's
time to run cords through them. Use a bodkin - there are a couple of kinds
available in fabric stores - or if you can't get that, grab a big safety pin.
Attach your cord or ribbon to your bodkin/safety pin, and start threading it
up one of the channels you sewed up the sleeve in step j). It doesn't matter
which side. Take it up to the top, then take it back down to the other side.
Make sure you cut the ribbon long enough for it to stick out when you've got
the sleeve completely ungathered - but probably not much longer than that.
Pull on the cords to gather up the sleeves. Get them to about wrist length
for typical wear, then tie the cords up.
- Hem it. Fold the bottom
edge under once a small amount, and iron it down. Now fold it under again
to the length you want it to be. Iron it down again. Sew a seam around the
edge to hem it. This is a great time to have the help of a friend or two to
get the hem the right length.
- Huzzah! You've done it! Make sure all those interior exposed edges got
- ***Nursing garb. For a nursing leine, make sure you have lots of
fabric in front. If you're dealing with 45" fabric, you definitely want two
front body pieces. (Well, if you're anywhere close to my size. Maybe not if
you're a tiny person.) The basic idea is that the center pleat on the left
and the center pleat on the right are not the same size as the other pleats.
They're REALLY deeeeep pleats, but all the other pleats are normal size.
On the inner edge of the extra-deep pleats is a long slit. Basically like
a huge turned buttonhole. If you're wearing an overdress with it, obviously
it never shows. But even if you're wearing it with just a skirt or belted,
that is really enough to hold it casually shut and hidden. On my nursing
leines, I currently have the holes basted shut, so I don't have to worry
about it at all, but I can just go in and clip the basting to make them
nursing leines again.
Many, many thanks to my friend Jennifer who came up with this design for a
nursing leine. I went to her when I was pregnant with my son and asked her to
come up with one. It has been a lifesaver.
If you think you might EVER need to make a nursing leine, for yourself
or for a friend, please come take a careful look at mine. It has been such a
help. (For my web readers - well, I can show it to the Caidans! I have a
picture of it in use here)(Easily offended
types don't look. Come on, y'all, there's lots more skin showing in a bikini.)