An Léine a Chumadh: Constructing the Irish Shirt

Ages ago I posted on the léine, the traditional shirt/tunic worn in the Gaelic-speaking world. A noted there that I would post later on its construction. Having made two now, I’ve got a rough pattern that works relatively well and uses all squares and rectangles. The classic image of the léine as depicted in sixteenth-century wood-carvings gives the impression of a curved sleeve, but this is accomplished by making a massive, tubular sleeve that is plaited into the body. I have added cuffs and a collar, but these are modern interpretations that probably were absent in the original garment. The ‘yoke’ or upper body uses three rectangles of cloth that, when stitched together, form the slit in front and allow the very full skirts to be pleated in, forming a voluminous lower garment that can be pulled up over the belt to allow free movement of the legs.

Note also that:

  • The two pieces of the sciortaí are stitched together along the 35″ sides, forming a tube that is 45″ long and 70″ around. The 70″ top is plaited into the cuingreacha and druim, and the 45″ are then pulled up over whatever belt is used. It may also be hemmed to whatever length is desired.
  •  The cufaí are folded along the long side into a w-shape and then sewed along the short edges before turning them inside-out and stitched into the pleated muinchillí.
  • The bona is handled in the same way as the cufaí, but attaching it to the druim and cuingreacha is easily the most challenging part of the whole process. You could just as easily finish the druim and cuingreacha and leave them open, as some of the images of léinte suggest.

There are certain other details to the wearing of the léine that pertain, but I will cover these when I post on the ionar: the distinctive padded covering that was worn over top of the léine.

A Pattern for the Léine

  This gives all the pieces necessary for constructing the léine, but keep in mind that the sciortaí should be two large, square pieces stitched together. Only one is shown, but you will need another.

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3 responses to “An Léine a Chumadh: Constructing the Irish Shirt

  1. Hi,

    it is great to see a growing interest in the léine, but unfortunately many people cannot seem to understand the hanging sleeve. Your design has no hanging sleeve and I wonder why not. Also, I venture to suggest that you have too many parts. Such parts as cuff are not accurate. I am the only person in Ireland (or anywhere else for that matter) who wears the léine as everyday clothing. If you want to see images of how the léine should look, and the sleeves in particular, please contact me,

    regards,

    Proinsias Mag Fhionnghaile
    President, The Léine Society.

    • I would love to see your design! I should point out that authenticity and I had a falling out a while back, so my interest is not in being historically accurate but rather promoting interest in historically informed creativity as a means of promoting cultural revival. My layout here is basically an attempt more at a creative reconstitution rather than reconstruction, I not being an expert in either modern clothing or in historical reconstructions. If I were trying to be perfectly accurate to sixteenth century attire in Gaelic Ireland I would have posted to a different forum than my personal record of public belief (if that makes sense). Thanks for the comment!

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