Finnish coil-embellished apron (part 3: Coiled border)

Completed decorated apron

Completed decorated apron

In my previous post I showed how I made the coils for my Finnish coil-embellished apron. In this post I’ll show how I made some of the embellishments.

Coil-embellished apron border


The first thing I did on my apron was to hem the top and bottom edges. In period the fabric was woven with woven-in tablet weaving at one edge, and was woven to size, with tubular selvages. I don’t have the ability (or loom! or space for a loom!) to weave my own fabric, so I chose purchased wool fabric in an undyed wool colour. I wanted something fairly substantial to be able to support the weight of the coils without drooping. I pre-washed the fabric to full it slightly, making it even more dense and sturdy.

Another documented option to finishing selvage edges on the Finnish mantle is the blanket stitch, so I decided to do this on my apron as well.

Period examples have wool thread for the finishing and to sew on the coils. It looks that in some ways the wool was fingerlooped together to form a cord, but was still very fine. I knew I’d need something smooth (to go through the wool as well as to go through the coils), strong, and in different colours. I tried a number of options using wool for this including:

  • A wool-silk blend lace-weight wool
  • A wool lace-weight wool
  • A wool medium weight wool, unplied
  • A silk-bamboo sock-weight yarn
  • A sock-weight linen yarn
  • A lace-weight linen yarn
  • Lace-weight linen yarn braided together
  • Wool pulled from the selvage, used straight
  • Wool pulled from the selvage, with two strands plied together on my drop spindle.

Not all of these were successful. The medium-weight wool, unplied as well as the selvage wool used straight shredded when I tried to sew with it. The silk-bamboo is obviously not a period alternative, and also got very fluffy with the coils. The wool-silk blend wood, and linen yarns all worked well. The selvage yarn plied on the drop spindle worked well, but was very time-consuming, and I didn’t feel it was a good use of my time.

Braiding the linen yarn created a nice firm cord for threading the larger coils, but I thought it would be too thick for the small coils or for sewing onto the apron.

Using a blanket stitch to hem the top and bottom of the apron with blue linen yarn

Using a blanket stitch to hem the top and bottom of the apron with blue linen yarn

Because of these factors, I decided to use the thinner lace-weight linen yarn for the majority of my project. I had this in red and blue – red for sewing on the coils (red yarn appears to be the main colour used for the coils) and blue for hemming (blue seems to be a popular colour in Finnish clothing). I also used the lace weight 100% wool for hemming the long edges, since I couldn’t find the right colour in linen.  I wanted this hemming to be less noticeable so that the coils would stand out more.

Top and bottom hems

As noted above, I used blue linen yarn to hem the top and bottom edges with a blanket stitch. I think that the fabric is dense enough that I didn’t have to fold it, but I opted to fold the fabric to give a sense of the density of the tablet-woven or tubular selvages from period.

I used two marks on my thumb to keep the stitches even – thanks Pinterest for the idea!

I flipped the hem from the top to the bottom, since the apron will be worn with the top flipped over the belt.

Side hems

Version 1

The reverse of the first attempt of the side hems. (With some selvage yarn that I would try for the next attempt.)

The reverse of the first attempt of the side hems. (With some selvage yarn that I would try for the next attempt.)

I started off by doing a bit of a loose running stitch to hold the hem in place, and then went straight onto attaching the large-diameter coils (24 gauge wire) with the red linen yarn – also using a blanket stitch. This looked beautiful from the front, but the spaces between the blanket stitches was too long on the back. I ended up removing this entirely.

Version 2

Trying out silk thread for stitching the hem

Trying out silk thread for stitching the hem

I tried a few alternatives to finishing this edge. I tried the selvage yarn – but this broke far too easily. I tried plying the selvage yarn, and while this worked fine for doing a blanket stitch on this hem, I decided that the work involved was more than I was willing to do. I tried a silk thread, (left) which looked ok, and blended in reasonably well, but I decided it wouldn’t really work either. I ended up using the 100% lace-weight wool in a colour that matched the fabric very well.

The plied selvage yarn, straight off the drop-spindle!

The plied selvage yarn, straight off the drop-spindle!

Attaching the coils

Once the sides were hemmed with the wool yarn, I was ready for the coils. I chose the large-diameter (24 gauge wire) spirals, cut to 2 centimetres long and finished (as per my previous post about finishing). I still did the blanket stitch, using red linen thread, but basing my length between stitches on the width of the spirals.

Completed decorated apron

Completed decorated apron


2 comments on “Finnish coil-embellished apron (part 3: Coiled border)

  1. Mervi says:

    I got curious: could you share the documented source that says that blanket sticth is used on finnish iron age mantles?

    • Dawn says:

      Really sorry – I took a look and couldn’t find it super-fast to relay back to you. My documentation plus sources are all here: but right now I just haven’t been able to find the time to dig a little deeper for that specific reference. I am sure that it’s about the shawl, but all of my sources are in there if you have the time to dig…. If I find the time in the next while I’ll look, but right now I’m a bit over-scheduled I’m afraid… and my mind is elsewhere.

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