My projects,  Sewing

Making an early 19th-century Karelian dress, part 3: Accessories

A costume never really looks right without proper accessories. The most important accessories for my Karelian costume are the apron, pocket, cap and silk scarves. Karelians didn’t shy away from showing their handicraft skills and flashing expensive silks. That meant I got a chance of learning Karelian redwork embroidery and use the bargain silk fabric I have been saving for a special project like this.

Here is my YouTube video about this part of the project:

The pocket with Karelian embroidery

Before the late 19th century, women’s pockets were usually separate garments that could be tied on with a belt. I didn’t use any specific pattern but the dimensions were determined by the size of the embroidery pattern I chose to decorate my pocket with. The pattern was originally a part of a bigger pattern that I found in a 1950s book called Karjalan kirjonta (=”Karelian embroidery”).

The embroidery was done in double running stitch so that the wrong side is identical to the right side. It was pretty challenging to navigate the complicate pattern while trying to keep the sides identical. I did make mistakes but luckily this time the wrong side isn’t going to be seen inside the pocket.

Karelian embroidery in progress.

To make the pocket, I cut out the pocket shape and lined it with some old white sheet cotton. I then bound the top of the pocket with a scrap from my sarafan fabric. The back part of the pocket is cotton velveteen from my old press buck project. I folded the top back an sewed it down neatly. Then, I finished the sides of the pocket with dark red bias tape – that too was leftover from my sarafan dress (that you will soon see!). Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough bias tape to fold it down with the green velveteen. I resulted in sewing on a separate piece of fabric to make a casing for the belt.

The finished pocket.

The Karelian silk apron

The apron is made out of black dupion silk. The fabric had very few slubs so it closely resembles taffeta. The width of the apron is pleated into the waistband. The waistband ends in loops that the belt is threaded through to tie the apron on. I decorated the apron with a strip of black lace and golden braid at the hem.

Apron detail.

I’m sorry I don’t yet have a picture of the whole apron. However, you will soon see the whole outfit with the apron properly worn with the sarafan dress.

The linen cap

During the 19th century a married Karelian woman wasn’t decent without a cap. Most of them featured very elaborate embroidery, often with goldwork (although the “gold” could be brass to save a bit of money). Still, one example found in a museum from the 1820s is estimated to have been cost the same as 3 or 4 cows!

I decided to settle to a simplest of caps since that suited my aesthetics more. The model is called ruppi-perze-sorokka, which in Karelian means a cap that is gathered at the back (and in Finnish it may sound a bit dirty, so stop giggling, as I already explained the literal meaning!)

Here is the finished cap:

The back of my ruppi-perze-sorokka cap-
The finished cap.

Silk scarves

Silk scarves were the must-have accessory of ladies. Men bought these kinds of scarves to their betrotheds and they were worn over the shoulders like a shawl or on the head, tied under the chin. Maidens rolled silk scarves to narrow bands and wore them around their head. Meanwhile, the younger girls decorated their hair with colourful silk ribbons.

I ordered the green on from Austria on Ebay as Austrian scarves are often worn with Finnish national costumes and Karelian dresses. Even in the 19th century these scarves would have been imported. Only after having made the order, I spotted the red and blue silk scarf at the Recycling centre. I couldn’t leave it after I saw it cost only 2 €.

Silk scarves.

Check out also the part 1 and part 2!

Thank you for reading and come back soon to see the finished costume! Happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • madamefruitbat

    I am really enjoying watching your costume develop, especially your embroidery and your research to find the specific items for your region. I wonder if you can give me some advice.

    I’ve been thinking about cultural appropriation and realised that I should draw on my own heritage for design ideas. However, finding anything, especially embroidery from the southern Jutland area of Denmark is proving pretty difficult. My family emigrated to Australia in the 1870s and did not keep up any traditions. Can you point me to any embroidery resources on the Internet? I know this is really a weird request since I am asking a Finnish person for information about a region of Denmark, but you seem very resourceful!

    • kk

      I think I did find you some ideas. You could try Hedebo embroidery: Another style is Skovbo sewing from the Zealand area of Denmark.

  • PatB

    Very interesting post. Your creativity and curiosity to try new skills is amazing. Love the purse, embroidery and belt. The style of purse would fit today’s lifestyle. Apron and your linen cap are delightful. Thanks for sharing.

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