I’m out on a quest. I’m sewing my own Dirndl. I do have a little sewing experience, but am by far no pro. Since I got a basic sewing machine this past January, I’ve done two skirts and a sad blouse, but I’m confident this project will work out great. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Because I know that diving into such a challenge without really knowing what I’m doing and working things out along the way is very me, and because I also know that chances are I would be a little dissappointed in the end, I decided to get help this time. I signed up for a course with the Münchner Volkshochschule, a type of community college that offer all sorts of non-degree courses like German as a second language, philosophy, fashion design and sketching, woodworking, and lucky for me: Trachtenschneidern (Bavarian dress sewing).
In the end I’m not entirely sure that the course was worth it, because they cut a few classes and I missed a few, but it certainly sped up my learning process and increased my sewing confidence a little. And because I missed a few classes because I went on vacation, I decided to at least do my home work and get some time consuming hand sewing done while tanning in the mediterranean sun.
Stifteln in a technique that creates tiny, even folds and is usually used for aprons or skirts. Rather than laying the folds by hand and pinning them down, Stiftelfalten are created by weaving multiple threads to the farbic and then pulling the threads. I got some great tips from this blog, but since I didn’t have internet access to check instructions, I involuntarily deviated quite a bit from what I really should have done…
I decided to make two different coloured aprons using this technique. I was hopiong that this way the first one would be the apprentice piece and the second one could be a little cleaner and more professional. Well, we’ll see how that worked for me later.
For each apron I used the full width of the fabric (140cm) and 100 cm length to begin with. My dress will be 75cm from the waist down and the apron should hang a few centimeters shorter in the end, but I wanted to be safe and make sure sure I’d have enough length in case I messed up somewhere along the way.
The big trick in Stifteln is that you first sew a checkered fabric to the back of the section that you want to stifteln. Orag in München sells special Stifelband that comes precut in 15cm width. Unfortunately, I noticed too late that the Stiftelband wasn’t cut properly in line with the checkered pattern. Make sure you Stiftelband (or checkered fabric) is cut straight or your folds may end up running on an angle rather than straight down!
I also would have found it helpful to secure the edges of both the Stiftelband and the apron fabric with a zic-zac stitch to keep them from fraying. But since all I had with me was a hand sewing kit, I had to make do with a lot of lose threads.
Pin or machine stitch (only along the top seam) the Stiftelband to the long (140cm) side of the apron fabric about 2cm from the top. Again, make sure it’s straight along the whole length of the band otherwise you may end up having to undo a lot of work.
For sewing the folds, use a strong thread like buttonhole thread. Hand sew 8 to 12 rows along the Stifelband. It took me roughly 20 minutes for one row, a little longer in the beginning, when I only did three stitches at a time, and a little less on day 4 when my fingers tips got used to the pressure and I wasn’t afraid to do up to 8 stitches at a time.
Make sure to check that you’re still following the right rhythm ever so often, it’s crucial that it matches across all rows!
I worked on the threading on two consecutive days for each apron, maybe 11 hours altogether. It would have been less, had I paid a little more attention to getting the Stiftelband straight in the beginning, had I not kept getting caught in the fraying edges, and had I not mistakenly done half a row in the wrong rhythm twice!
Once you’re done threading, tie the ends with little knots. You can now carefully start pulling the thread ends on either side and the fabric folds will form. I did manage to rip a thread so do not pull too hard. If one thread doesn’t want to pull anymore, pull the ones around it and the other end or gently push the folds down a little.
Seeing the folds magically appearing was my favourite part, because after all the patient hours of threading, finally some real progress was visible! The next steps for the aprons will be sewing the waist and the ribbons and putting it all together.