While this is making the rounds on social media, I felt it worth resharing here for those who might not have seen it. Dr. Jane Malcom-Davies (whom some might know from Tudor Tailor) has a peer-reviewed article on scientific reconstruction of dress and textiles. I simply cannot love this enough.
This is an SCA post for those who are curious about what we do, rather than those already in the Society.
See, I know that some Ren Faire and LARP circles talk smack on the SCA. There are rumors that you HAVE to be perfectly historically accurate to play with us. There are stories about how you have to spend months of research on clothing and hand sew everything.
Full stop with that nonsense.
Perhaps you would like to know that our only actual requirement for garb is that it is "an attempt at pre-17th Century clothing"?
What this means is that folks who come to an event are asked to help set the stage by being in a costume of some sorts, rather than jeans and a t-shirt.
That is literally it.
You need not research your outfit, you sure as hell do not need to hand sew anything. If you do sew, you can run to Joanns and buy a McCall's halloween pattern and make a medieval-ish dress and just show up.
If you don't sew, a tunic of some sort from Amazon will work, toss it on with sweat pants and a belt and you are ready to come check us out. Thrift stores can yield long skirts and tunic-length blouses that can also make for nice starter garb.
And if you know you want to go to an event, you can reach out to the local group and see if they have loaner gear to help get you there.
And yes, before anyone starts (and NO this is not the place for it), there is always that one twatwaffle at the event that thinks everyone has to live up to some standard that THEY invented, but the fact is, the organization itself only requires an attempt. Nothing more. And the VAST majority of folks here would rather you just show up and check us out. (And as for that twatwaffle? If one reports them for bullying, it can actually help curb the bit of that behavior that does exist.)
It might also interest you to know that we have long time, high-ranking members who don't actually care at all about clothing. These folks might be more interested in cooking a feast, in fighting, in teaching black smithing or calligraphy. We have so very much to offer!
Me personally? I love the costume aspect. It makes me happy. I love the research and working how how things were done in the past. But sometimes I also roll out of camp in a mis-matched collection of things (men's medieval tunic, viking belt, woman's cap, modern-though-sca-related necklace and also I topped it off with birkenstocks because my feet need them).
If you are curious about what we do, we are here and ready to welcome new visitors, and no, the Society doesn't care what you are wearing when you show up at our doors.
There are MANY changes to Pennsic every year. This year is NO different. Make sure you read the RULES completely before going (or as soon as you get there).
There is a LOT of poison ivy on site this year, more so than in years past. Also, high weeds have chiggers this year, if you don't wanna FAFO with the parking crew, you definitely do not wanna FAFO with these buggers.
My classes are below:
Registration deadline for online reg is JUNE 11!!! Get your registration in as soon as possible because we all know the site crashes on the last couple of days!
If you are wanting to upgrade parts of your early period kit, I cannot recommend enough that you consider trying something beyond "absolute" symmetry in your strands of beads for certain times and places. Why? Because often what we see is not a grouping of beads where the left and right sides of the strand can mirror each other identically. Frequently the beads in a single find are a scattering of types and styles.
Celtic finds, Migration Period, Viking Age... so many periods were the beads seem to be valued for their uniqueness, rather than "matching" in a mirroring sort of way. In some collections we see a possibility for balance in the stringing (we often do not know exactly how they were strung during life, and many reconstructions opt for at least balance in the overall look if exact symmetry is not possible), but not that mirroring effect.
I know that my first Viking strands were always painfully symmetrical, and they never really looked "right" to me. I was definitely over engineering. I am happier with the things that I make now, where I let different beads speak to me and get included for what each one brings to my mind.
Below are some examples of extant groupings of beads that show off balance (with out absolute symmetry) and and some collections that really are a delightfully chaotic mix of things that seem to speak more to me of the people and places from which these items came.
Many museums have beads online and its sometimes worth it to just spend hours surfing until inspiration hits (unimus.no, National Museum of Denmark, Saxon beads are also easy to track down... heck, this is the one time I am actually going to recommend surfing the hated Pinterest for inspiration).
Honestly? I would LOVE to see more of this type of work, these things that make the piece unique, in the modern world as well.
Birka 971... definitely balance was sought after here, but the beads themselves do not show absolute symmetry in size or type from left to right. Also, this one does something else I love, which a large grouping of a single color of bead and a few in the center that really are shown well because of the arrangment.
I am deep in research for my Apothecary as well as future posts about Early (and Early Early) Period textiles, but I wanted to take a moment to share an opportunity to be a modern day Patron of the Arts.
Feed the Ravens (aka Maggie and Scot) is a an incredible vendor in the SCA. These folks are beyond knowledgeable not only about their arts of ceramics, leathercraft and wood working, but also about the general history and material culture of the Viking Age. They are constantly giving to our SCA and reenactment communities by sharing their knowledge. I am proud to count them as friends.
Last year, at the urging of others, they finally started a Patreon page (HERE). For those unfamiliar with the site, this allows artisans to gain the support of their fans in return for a window into their lives, as well as special offers, deals and sometimes even gifts. It allows for a more historic form of sponsorship of the arts, which can allow artisans a bit of space to be more creative knowing that some of their own needs can be met.
I think it is amazing and joined pretty much as soon as it launched. Patreon is set up nicely to allow for differing levels of commitment to the cause. For Feed the Ravens it ranges from $3 a month to $100 a month.
Some of these tiers offer special shopping pre-sales, and just recently, there was an opportunity to PRE-ORDER pottery! They also sent out gifts to subscribers at the end of the first year.
As an incentive right now, there is a contest for a FREE year of pottery. Everyone who joins with an annual subscription will be entered and have a chance of winning! The message they sent out is below in red text, and note that you have till NOON (Eastern Standard Time) on March 31 to join to be eligible. I do believe you need to be in the US or Canada to win so one might want to check on that if you are outside of the US. The Patreon link is here: www.patreon.com/ftrfeedtheravens/posts
GIVEAWAY! A one year pottery subscription!
All new Patrons who sign up for an Annual Membership on our patreon at ANY tier will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a ONE YEAR POTTERY SUBSCRIPTION FREE! A $1200+ value! One piece of our pottery per month sent to the winner for one year. We will choose a variety of different styles, sizes and functions for you from our studio. The higher the tier you sign up for, the more entries go into the drawing for you. Each dollar pledged is one entry! Tiers start at three dollars! To sign up for a full year, choose the tier you want to join, and select Annual Membership. Best of all, paying for the full year up front gets you a 10% discount!
Why are we running this promotion? Scot needs a new leather tool, and frankly, we just can't afford it right now. This tool will not only make his process go much faster, it will save untold wear and tear on his wrists. Check out this epic edging tool! (FYI, Scot currently and since about 16 years has been edging all of his belts by hand!)
Already a Patron? DON'T WORRY! We have another pottery subscription giveaway for you all as well! check your patron emails for details coming soon!
Link to our Patreon is on our main Feed the Ravens Facebook page. Deadline is noon EST on March 31 to enter, Drawing will be that evening!
And this isn't all they are offering! They are doing a limited run of their Mug of the Month boxes! I did this over the winter and got some incredible pieces from them. I highly recommend diving into this if you have the funds for it. It is wonderful fun to see what comes in the mail each month. Details from their Facebook page are below in red. I have added the link in green text in the copy from their page to make access easy.
SURPRISE BOX! Pottery Subscription! Who's in? 4 months, for one hundred per month, you will get one piece of pottery per month. This will include:
Scroll through the photos (HERE) in this post to see examples of what you might get!
The monthly payment includes priority shipping. We will invoice you through our website.
Available as a monthly invoice, OR... hear me out- Pay all at once and get a FREE whiskey sipper - a one of a kind made just for you.
The first 30 subscriptions will go out April 15-30, the next 20 subscribers will get their first boxes May 15-30. and 50 is about all we can handle at this time.
WHY are we doing this special thing now and why should you jump on this? We are trying desperately to get approved for a home loan, and for what we want/need for a live/work situation we need 20% down. Covid and my surgery tanked our savings. and all of our monthly bills have gone up. We have to get out of this rental situation. A cash infusion at this time would seriously help our chances of get what we need to get there. PM me if you want a subscription! (FB Page info to message Maggie to subscribe is HERE)
THIS IS FOR 4 PIECES TOTAL, ONE PER MONTH, INCLUDING SHIPPING. (These are time consuming pieces of art, not fast production ware, and shipping is about 15-20% of the price)
Below is a photo of some of the items I have that might be similar to items in the subscription boxes (every box will be UNIQUE though, that is part of the fun).
In an effort to help folks better their ability to choose textiles for historic projects, I am compiling a series of articles aimed at those less familiar with the source material and textiles in general. I hope this helps those who are looking to recreate Bronze Age costumes better source their cloth!
I am starting with the dating systems used to better help frame the discussed textiles with timeline. According to some dating systems, the Bronze Age in Scandinavia covers the years 1700BCE to 500BCE, while others start at 1800BCE (see chart used by Lise Bender Jorgensen from Northern European Textiles) and come to the same final point. The period is broken down into the Early Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age (either 1700-1000BCE or 1800-1000BCE for Early, depending on the source). More recent work has sought to use carbon dating as a means of ‘finalizing’ the 6 subcategories in the periods with the following being the results (Olsen, et al):
Phase 1 – 1700-1500
Phase 2 – 1500-1300
Phase 3 – 1300-1100
Phase 4 – 1100-950/920
Phase 5 – 950/920 – 800
Phase 6 – 800-530/520
Note that while I am adding this to my blog category for “Textile Charts”, I have to note that there really is no actual chart to be had for this topic because the textiles from this period were almost entirely tabby/plainweave. For those new to textiles, basic tabby cloth is what you usually see in linen fabrics, particularly those sold at popular vendors like Fabrics-Store.
In her work, Forhistoriske Textiler I Skandinavien, Lise Bender Jørgensen details the textiles from each grave in each specific time period for Scandinavia. The book has both a catalog and an analysis of textiles, including spin direction. All figures in the next few paragraphs are summarized from that source. The book does not, however, have detailed information on color or density of weave. In total, there are 185 Bronze Age graves containing textiles. Most of these are from Denmark, with only 2 finds from Norway, 20 graves were from Sweden (from Scania and Halland) and 10 graves from Schleswig and Holstein, which are now part of Germany. Overwhelmingly, the textiles are wool in tabby weave.
For the Early Bronze age (Phases 1-3), Phase 1 has only one grave and all items were repp-like tabby weave. In a repp weave, one thread system covers the other giving it a ribbed effect. If you have seen inkle weaving, you have seen repp weave. 82 graves from Phase 2 contained 107 tabby textiles, 13 repp (these include bands and starting borders), sprang was present in 4 graves and there were a few other more unique items as well, including men’s caps with pile (fuzzy hats!) in 7 graves. All of the actual fabrics were tabby or repp. The last Phase for the Early Bronze age (Phase 3), had 52 graves with textiles yielding 79 items with a determinable weave. 68 of these were tabby, 9 are repp and the remaining fall into the category of other (again, containing items like sprang and plaiting).
The Late Bronze Age is comprised of Phases 4-6, but there was a switch during this period to cremation graves which leaves little material for us to explore. Most of the textiles from this time are found in Phases 4 and 5, where we find 13 graves with textiles and with only 21 textiles that are preserved well enough to categorize. 18 of these are tabby, one is repp and two are a 2/2 twill. Twill cloth has a diagonal weave to it (think of blue jeans here). Both of these twill textiles are dated to Phase 5.
Of course, knowing what weave to shop for is only part of the problem for the costumer. Fibre type is the second thing that we must consider. For the Early Bronze Age in Scandinavia, this decision is also simple. All of the Early Bronze Age textiles were not only tabby or repp, they were consistently wool. The only exception at all is in the Late Bronze Age (900-700BCE) there was a single instance of a tabby woven nettle textile. (Jorgensen, Forehistoriske, p292; Gleba & Mannering, p97)
Nettle is a bast fibre similar to linen, hemp is also found as a woven good later in time in Scandinavia. Typically, these types of fibres do not survive well in environments that preserve wool, which makes it hard to know definitively if the people had them or not. In Textiles and Textile Production in Europe from Prehistory to 400AD, it is suggested that it is possible that these fabrics, or maybe even flax, existed during the Late Bronze Age, but there is nothing to prove this time.
This is a good time to segue to a discussion on thread counts. When we “count threads” we are merely looking at the number of threads in the warp (the thread that runs from one beam to the next on the loom) and also the weft (the thread that runs over and under the warp threads across the loom). By looking at thread counts in archaeological textiles we can compare those to items for sale to see how close we are to the existing items which can help inform our purchasing choices.
That nettle textile mentioned above was one of the finest examples from the entire Bronze Age in Scandinavia. It had 45.7 threads to the inch in one system and 33 threads to the inch in the other system (Gleba & Mannering, p97) If you want to know what that looks like, the Rustic Linen from Fabrics-Store has a somewhat similar thread count (38/32), while the All-Purpose that most of us are familiar with is a little finer at 46/37. Note though, this fabric was an anomaly not only unique in its fibre content, but also in how fine it was! The bulk of textiles were what we would consider to be coarse and had a very low thread count. The wool cloth was typically more coarse than even the 10oz canvas from Fabrics-Store. The most common thread count in the early part of the Early Bronze Age in wool was 10 threads to the inch in both systems. The highest thread counts were seen in the repp woven items. Buy Phase 3 we are looking at thread counts of roughly 18 to 23. This still is much more coarse than even the canvas weight linens with which many of us are familiar.
The surface of the wool cloth was also fulled, which makes it a bit fuzzy but improves the way it sheds water, insulates and renders the cloth unable to fray at the edges (meaning things like bottom hems or complex French seams were often unnecessary as the cloth will not ravel).
As a side note here, if anyone is interested in learning to weave, these garments, particularly the cropped blouses in several women’s graves, would be great projects for a novice. They could even be done on a wide rigid heddle loom, which is a very good way to get started with the craft. (See information on this type of weaving here - http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/rigid-heddle-weaving-for-sca-use )
The next question that folks often have is what color to purchase. In this case, the Bronze Age in Scandinavia also makes this easy. Aim for Brown. There is no evidence of organic dye from this time and place (Frei, Mannering, et al, p652). We do see natural pigmentation from the sheep, primarily brown, in the cloth and white wool seemed rare. Soay sheep are a Bronze Age Breed, so it does not hurt to aim for those shades of brown for your textiles.
And finally, the last question, embroidery? Figurative embroidery is not represented at all in these finds. If you want decorative stitching for Early Bronze Age, I encourage you to look to the Skyrdstrup blouse and the beautiful needlework on it.
It is important to note here that the complete costumes we have from the Bronze Age in Denmark, including those from Borum Eshoj, the Egtved Girl, and Skrydstrup, all fall into the EARLY Bronze Age designation. That means that if you are looking for appropriate textiles for these items, then your best bet is to seek out a coarse wool tabby. The mentioned nettle textile and the two twills fall very much outside of the period for these costumes. Given that most folks seeking to represent this period will be opting for these looks (given how broad the amount of base material there is), I will summarize specifically for the Early Bronze Age period:
If you want more information on Bronze Age costume, I have a list of sources in my Egtved Girl bibliography here: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/iron-age-celtic-studies/egtved-bibliography
Barber, E.J.W. Prehistoric Textiles, Princeton University Press, 1991.
Bender Jørgensen, Lise. Forhistoriske Textiler I Skandinavien, 1986.
Bender Jørgensen, Lise, Joanna Sofaer and Marie Louise Stig Sørensen. Creativity in the Bronze Age: Understanding Innovation in Pottery, Textile, and Metalwork Production, February 2018.
Brandt, Luise Ørsted. “Species identification of skins and development of sheep wool”, PhD Thesis, The SAXO Institute, 2014.
Frei, Karin Margarita, Ulla Mannering, Ina Vanden Berghe, and Kristian Kristiansen. “Bronze Age Wool: provenance and dye investigations of Danish Textiles”, June 2017. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317347024_Bronze_Age_wool_Provenance_and_dye_investigations_of_Danish_textiles
Gleba, Margarita and Ulla Mannering. Textiles and Textile Production in Europe from Prehistory to 400AD, Oxbow Books, 2012.
Hald, Margarethe. Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials, National Museums of Denmark, 1990.
Olsen, Jesper, et al. “Chronology of the Danish Bronze Age Based on 14C Dating of Cremated Bone Remains”, (2011). Radiocarbon, 53(2), 261-275.
Are you aiming to dive into Viking clothing or looking to upgrade a more fantasy Viking Age wardrobe into something more suitable to historic reenactment? There are many traps most folks fall into when they start out (myself included). Below is a brief list of things you can do from the outset, so that you can better fit the scene, if that is your desire. In the past, I have taught a short class in the SCA about how to start your first Viking kit in a fashion that can be built upon later, rather than having to be totally reworked, as you progress towards higher authenticity. Many of these clothing items are mentioned in the class. This article is specifically for the Viking Age and broadly covers Denmark, Norway, Sweden (but not Gotland, which has different clothing traditions), Iceland, and the British Isles. This[MKB1] does not apply to Finnish, Baltic or Rus clothing, and may not apply to every time and place even in the areas covered. Further research should be done to better align your clothing and equipment choices to fit the culture and class of your persona.
Note, if you belong to a reenactment group that has specific standards or a guide book, one should always consult that book or the authenticity officers as to what is allowed. If you do not care about historical accuracy and just want what you personally feel is a “Viking look”, that is fine, especially for the SCA or Viking or Ren Faires. This article is not geared to telling someone what they are doing is “wrong”, but rather to help align the evidence and help those who might want to take the next steps towards a more realistic historic interpretation.
I have a number of articles here on my blog that can help sort additional items out. They can be found the topics of Viking Costume: Beyond the Myth and Viking Textiles – Looking Deeper. For excellent articles on costume I recommend Hilde Thunem and Susanna Broome. For fantastic research on armor, weapons, leather goods, and more, I highly suggest David Stříbrný’s site.
Given that most of us do not launch right into high-end historic reenactment, we can take our time, start simple, and thoughtfully develop the details of our persona (time, culture, location, status, wealth, occupation, and circumstance) and build out from there, making upgrades or adding finer details as we go.
So I read this post today and this one is a total NOPE with me.
So, when I first started and was at a meeting (which, in part, was for the founding of Sylvan Glen) and folks were explaining the SCA to us, we heard all about Knights and Laurels and Pelicans. But seriously, all I heard was _Knights_. Why? Because one of my draws for the SCA was the idea of armored combat and Knights in shining armor.
I listened in awe and was delighted when told that women could fight too! I said, then and there, "I want to be a Knight!"
Well, I never did don armor (bought some once, but that is another story), and would not have put that level of work into it anyways, but it was an amazing temporary dream that initially helped propel me forward in this hobby.
Back then (this was 30 years ago), you REALLY did not say you wanted to be a Peer (though it was easier to say you wanted to be a Knight than to belong to one of the other orders... sexist much???). I am very glad that no one told me in that moment that I shouldn't say that, because I might have opted out from all of this to start.
And yes, for a very, very long time I DID believe that it was not OK to say you wanted to be a Pelican or a Laurel. All of this sort of was equated in my mind with typically thankless work like being a mother or teacher or caretaker. (Again, sexist much????)
I was wrong to propagate those ideas then, even though I wasn't exactly going around telling people that.
I am, however, taking a stand now. See, I understand what the OP here is saying about perception, and how people will judge you based on words uttered, but the fact is, that is something we _have_ to change. I disagree with the fact that it was ever a thing and it Needs. To. Stop.
If you happen to be the one "judging" someone by the fact that they said they want to be a Peer, just stop that nonsense. It is not your pace to do so, EVEN if you are a member of the Order in question.
Why? Because what someone DOES is what matters. Period. Someone might just be new, or enthusiastic. No one should have to tailor a simple statement the make, because NO ONE should be reacting to that more than the actual actions.
You know what else? The person making that statement also might be neurodiverse, and expecting them to utter a phrase in a specific way in order for you to correctly "read" their "intent" is beyond wrong on your part. I confess, I used to be in this camp as well, and, looking back, I realize how intimidating it it could be.
And finally? It is not anyone's job to try to ascertain someone's motives (this was the most important lesson I learned from my Laurel). Chances are if you are doing that, you will be wrong. And that is not fair to the potential candidate OR the Order. Just stop. Further, if you hear someone remarking on potential motives of a candidate, TELL THEM TO STOP.
When all is said and done, what are the actions the person is taking? What are they showing, sharing and doing? Are they inspiring others? Look at those things as those are the things that matter. Your preconceived notion of their "motive" has no relevance here.
Is it possible someone is only doing something for an award? Yes, but it is not up to anyone else to determine that. If the work is there, and the PLQs are there, and they are inspiring others, that is all you get to go on when making that recommendation to the Crown. Work from the hard evidence and not what is likely just a reflection your own internal experiences or biases.
And for anyone out there who wants to be a Peer? Go ahead, tell me that. I might even talk to you further about it, and, if you are interested in next steps (though who can say whether they will eventually lead you to that moment) it I might even have advice to help you become better at your art or research.
What I won't do is tell you not to have a dream. What I won't do is till you not to say you want to be a Peer. What I might do is try to help you up your own personal game. What I will do is cheer you on in your personal successes.
Can you easily tell the differences in these two cloths? Could you tell the difference if they were not presented side-by-side?
I am mother to a billion cats and am on journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, culture and food.
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Blogroll of SCA & Costume Bloggers
Below is a collection of some of my favorite places online to look for SCA and historic costuming information.
More Amie Sparrow - 16th Century German Costuming
Gianetta Veronese - SCA and Costuming Blog
Grazia Morgano - 16th Century A&S
Mistress Sahra -Dress From Medieval Turku
Loose Threads: Cathy's Costume Blog
Mistress Mathilde Bourrette - By My Measure: 14th and 15th Century Costuming
More than Cod: Exploring Medieval Norway