My projects,  Sewing

A Finnish folk shirt from early 19th-century Askola village

The shirt is the base for a Finnish folk costume. They are usually made out of linen and decorated with embroidery. The shirt I made is based on an extant shirt in the collection of the National Museum of Finland. It was worn in the early 19th-century in Askola Monninkylä village in Southern Finland and it now is part of the Finnish National Costume from Askola.

It was important to find linen that had a pretty high thread count compared to many linen fabrics out there as the embroidery is done by counting the threads. The fabric I selected is probably more sheer than what would be completely historical for folk shirts but the thread count is close.

Here is the video of the whole process:

The seams and the embroidery are all sewn with half-bleached linen thread. The thread for the seams was a bit thicker than what would be used for the embroidery. The problem was that the thread recommended for the embroidery (Bockens 90/2) wasn’t actually manufactured anymore. I tried using Pella 80/2 but that was way too thick and my embroidery looked messy. Finally, I was able to track down some Bockens 90/2 and it made a huge difference.

Making the tiny embroidery details for my Askola folk shirt.
Here is me trying to see what I’m doing. The tiny stitches meant that some extreme magnification was required!

Making this folk shirt was the most laborious task in the whole business of making a national costume. Due the embroidery, drawn-thread work, hand sewing, and felling all the seams, it took me about 2 months to finish.

I realized that I didn’t really show how the cuffs were closed. I made buttonholes to the ends of the cuffs and threaded a braided cord through them to close the cuffs. Sorry about the wrinkled shirt in the picture. I washed the shirt and it is not supposed to be ironed before storing it as ironing it before storing may cause yellowing of the fabric.

Askola folk shirt cuff closure.

When I’m planning to wear this shirt the next time, I will take it out of storage a few days before and starch the collar. I will also spray the whole shirt with water and let it soak a bit and then iron it. For the little bit in the video, I starched the collar with potato starch that kept the collar nicely up.

One thing is still missing from the shirt and that is the lace at the collar. That is something that can’t be bought, so I will need to learn to make bobbin lace to make the lace myself. Luckily, the pattern doesn’t look too difficult to learn, even for a beginner like me.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the video. You can subscribe to my blog and/or to my YouTube channel to keep up with the new posts. In the meantime, Happy Sewing!


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

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