*Update: I’ve traded out the word “gore” for “godet”, as I believe I was using “gore” incorrectly. Gores are panels added to the entire length of the garment or sleeve to expand its shape, while godets are triangular inserts that create a more pronounced and concentrated flare.*
Are you trying to sew your own Charles de Blois-style pourpoint and are not sure how to set a godet into a slit? You will need this skill for attaching the front godets and underarm godets, which are part of a faithful reproduction of the sleeve. Inserting a triangle into a slit in fabric can be tricky, especially if the point of the triangle is sharp. Aside from the pourpoint mentioned above, many other surviving garments from the Middle Ages employ this tailoring technique.
It is found in multiple 14th- and 15th-century kirtles from Greenland and Scandinavia (Bocksten Man, Kragelund, Skjoldehamn, Moselund, and the Herjolfsnes 38, 39, and 41 to name some) as well as hoods found in Herjolfsnes, Greenland, London, England, and Dordrecht, The Netherlands. It is also found on the pourpoint of Charles de Blois, from Angiers, France, the St. Louis shirt also from France, Fernando de la Cerda’s saya and pellote in Spain, and the Moy Bog dress in Ireland. Some extant hosen employ a similar tailoring technique in attaching the foot to the legging. It is worth noting that not all gordets set into slits are pointy: some are gently curved at the top of the slit, others have multiple prongs sewn into the slit. If you want to explore 14th-century tailoring techniques, this is a good one to master.
Below, you will find a picture-aided tutorial showing a step-by-step process for inserting a godet into slit fabric.
I found it was easier to learn this tailoring concept when first practiced by hand, rather than by machine. If you get the gist by hand and are comfortable using a sewing machine, feel free to proceed to the machine, if that is your preference.
I used two contrasting fabrics in the pictures below to better illustrate what each piece does in relation to the other; not because godets should contrast with the main fabric. I don’t recommend sewing contrasting godets into your historical clothing without some documentation for doing so.
Start with a swatch of fabric with a slit cut into it and a triangular godet as seen below:
With the slit fabric front-side-up, turn the godet back-side-up and line up one of its edges with one side of the slit. (It doesn’t matter which side you start with.) The picture below has been marked to show you how the godet should be placed on the slit fabric:
- black lines to indicate where the slit should be located under the yellow godet,
- a red dot showing where the godet stitching should begin, and
- a red dashed line to show how the stitch line should progress.
To begin sewing, insert the needle through the back side of the slit fabric, keeping it very close to the top of the slit as seen below:
Sew one side of the godet to the edge of the slit. The stitching should remain a steady 1/2″ or 5/8″ (whichever is your usual preference) from the edge on the godet side. On the slit fabric side, the stitching should begin very close to the top of the slit and gradually move outward until it is 1/2″ or 5/8″ away from the slit at its bottom. The next two pictures show what the stitching should look like on each side. First you can see that the stitching remains 1/2″ away from the godet’s edge:
Second, you can see that the stitching starts very close to the slit fabric’s edge and gradually moves further away until it is 1/2″ away from the edge at the bottom. To understand why this happens, click here:
Next, begin to pull the godet open so that the second side can be matched up to the other side of the slit:
Carefully pull all of the seam allowance of the godet into sight on the back side of the slit fabric. Line up the remaining godet edge to the remaining slit edge. Note that they will not line up evenly until the bottom of the slit, as already demonstrated above:
To begin sewing, put your needle through the back side of the slit fabric, very close to the top of the slit, just as you did with the first side you sewed. It is ok to have both knots right next to each other:
Stitch the second side of the godet to the second side of the slit. Notice that on the slit fabric, the stitching starts very close to the edge of the fabric, gradually moving further away until it is fully 1/2″ or 5/8″ from the edge by the time it reaches the bottom:
When finished, iron the godet flat over the seam allowances of the slit fabric. You may need to snip a small slit in the slit fabric’s seam allowance at the point of the godet to relieve tension there. Notice that on this side, the stitching is always 1/2″ or 5/8″ from the edge of the godet:
Turn the swatch over to the front side, and you will see a neatly inserted godet:
To finish the seam allowance, roll the godet’s seam allowances under, encasing the slit fabric’s seam allowance, using a whip stitch or running stitch to secure it:
The front of the finished godet looks like this: