The article has been published in the Archaeological Textiles Review for the Lendbreen constructions. I love that the time needed to reconstruct the garments was included, as it is very important for providing context for the garments. (Yes, I also love that they used Villsau wool!)
I think that this could also be subtitled "My love-hate relationship with Herringbone cloth".
In my Textiles and Dress Class, I discuss what types of cloth are the most common in the Viking Age and talk bit about tracking down modern textiles that, even if not perfect, are good options for reenactment. Another item I touch on in that class is making good choices. We all love the rare graves, and unique items, but one kit made of 20 different unique pieces steps away from being a good historic representation of a time. An easy way to start building a better kit is in your cloth choices, and one can consider weave structure, threadcount, and color when making those choices.
For me personally, I lean towards the most common weaves (tabby and twill), whenever possible. I will add an element such as broken diamond twill to my kit for a very high status persona, but would not add broken diamond twill, herringbone cloth, a silk band, tablet weaving, and possements all to one costume because it would be showing too much that was rare in period all at once. My love-hate relationship with herringbone reflects the fact that I find the weave attracted, but I am often frustrated when it tends to be more readily available in the weights I want than the more historically common twill and tabby. (And this is additionally frustrating when the herringbone cloth is two tone, which is also something less common in period.)
I turned the data from Lise Bender Jørgense's book Prehistoric Scandinavian Textiles, as well as some additional works, into charts to help illustrate how common (or not) weaves were in various areas.
Denmark - 9th Century
Jørgensen's work on the textiles of Denmark covers graves, excluding Hedeby, and is nicely broken down into two centuries. One issue with this work that it only covers weave structure in the synopsis, and for me to break it down between linen and wool, I would have to reference back to collect that data. Further, some of the data here is provided by textile pseudomorphs, which only show us the weave structure and leave no cloth to analyze. It is likely that some amount (even a good amount, according to the author) of the tabby shown here is linen. It is also possible that some of the tabby weave represents a type of fine, open weave wool that was used for veils and mantles but that was also used as specific burial clothes or covers. It is also noted by the author that there are additional "fine silks" not covered in her work because they were detailed elsewhere.
For Denmark the charts are based on the total number of textiles/textile impressions.
Denmark - 10th Century
The notes above apply to this category also.
For Hedeby I had to reference the book Tools for Textile Production from Birka and Hedeby by Eva Andersson; Die Textilfunde aus der Siedlung und aus den Grabern von Haithabu by Inga Hägg; and VikingAge.org, as well as Jørgensen's work to obtain data for the chart.
Note that I only have the percentages for weave structure, not total number of fragments for Hedeby, and the percentages in Andersson's work are listed below. I believe it is, in part representative of the silk cloth, possaments or metal brocaded bands found in the graves. As mentioned previously, some of the fine tabbies might represent burial cloth.
It is also interesting to note that only one of the "other twills" is a herringbone weave, and the only herringbone sample from the settlement finds was from a legwrap. Also relative, the most common cloth from the settlement is 2/2 twill.
Sweden - Excluding Birka and Gotland
One of the nice things about Jørgensen's work is she does break out unusual segments of data, such as that from Gotland. This allows the reader to look at Sweden and Gotland (which tend to have very different types of grave goods) individually, rather than as a whole, which can skew the presentation.
Birka - Linen & Wool Cloth
For Birka I had two separate sets of data from which to work. One from the analysis in Jørgensen's book, and the other from Andersson. This first breaks it down into fiber types, as well as weave, but is based on number of graves, rather than number of textiles.
Birka - Textiles
This chart was based on a chart produced by Inga Hägg that covers the Birka textiles and that was reproduced in Andersson's work.
My only note here is that Jørgensen makes the comment that the Broken Diamond Twill is far more common in Western Norway, than in the South East.
For York I had to compile information from Anglo-Scandinavian Finds from Lloyds Bank, Pavement and Other sites by Arthur MacGregor and Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate by Penelope Walton. Some of the fragments might represent one piece of cloth, but the author's were not completely sure and hence they, and I, listed them separate.
Recently on the Viking Clothing forum on Facebook (the rather "hardcore" forum I have mentioned before in some of my posts), there was a discussion about necklines on women's Viking Age caftans/coats. Quite often I see coats with a very deep U shaped cut out. There is no real evidence for that cut, though I do understand why reenactors opt for that shaping. It allows for one to see the impressive brooches and bling.
There is some scant evidence of a straight edge opening, so when I made my own coat, I opted for something between the two. I choose a deep V neck that has only the very slightest curve to it. Unfortunately, my entire coat came out too large, so that neckline opens up too much and the whole thing wants to slide off my shoulders. (Fortunately, I already have cloth with which to craft a new outergarment at some point.)
I think the most brilliant reconstruction I have seen so far is offered by a reenactor named Louise Archer. She gave me permission to share her work here. Her coat is which is made from a Herdwick diamondtwill wool and in her detail photos you can see she has a Dublin scarf. That is made from Manx Loghtan wool! (I cannot express how much I love her choices, and how lucky I think she is to find these wools to work with.) Her coat comes to the neckline, as would a straight-opening male caftan. She can fasten it at the top for warmth, OR just use the brooch further down, which allows it to open at the top around her brooches and bling. This is practical the similarities to the proposed male garment make it make a great deal of sense. Beyond that, this construction (or anything with a straight edged front) also makes it somewhat similar to items from nearby cultures (such as Frankish or Saxon women's coats).
Beyond her wonderful coat, I also wanted to point out the photo of her Dublin style cap. This very will illustrates one of the points I made a few days ago in my article on the facts we have about headcoverings from the Viking Age (that being that all of the extant examples are actually very, very tiny).
I really love this work and look forward to seeing more from Louise.
I love doing research, and love compiling documentation. Yes, it actually might be one of my favorite parts of doing what I do. I always learn new ways to improve my documentation every time I produce something, and I want to share one item that really changed now only how I document a project, but how I THINK about a project.
Mistress Ragnveig Snorradottir shared with me some of her documentation for a pentathlon competition. At the end of her documentation there was a chart, a decision making matrix (which was actually suggested to her by Mistress Sigrid Briansdotter). It allows you to readily lay out all project details for the benefit of the judges. I have discovered that using a chart like this actually helps me to organize a project, and keep track of the most relevant details. This allows me to not only have a quick reference for my own work, but it sometimes makes me stop and thing about my choices as I work.
Below is the chart as I used it in a competition entry for Atlantia's Kingdom Arts and Sciences Faire in 2016. This specific one is from a woven Norse headcovering that I entered. A link for the full documentation can be found below the chart.
(A I have woven a couple of the Dublin headcoverings before, as mentioned in a previous post here (http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/dublin-scarf-finished ). I did those on a rigid heddle loom with two heddles and currently have one of the narrow scarves warped up on a table loom in an even more fine wool yarn.
But I have been trying to puzzle a few things out about the loops at the ends of the fringed items, and how the spacing was kept with out a tablet woven starting border. (Spacing by hand would not be difficult with a thicker yarn, but with a very fine yarn it could be a continual pain for the weaver.) String heddles some times help spacing, but sometimes they also can botch it up.
In Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin, Elizabeth Wincott Heckett suggests that the headcoverings might have been woven on a two beam loom similar to the one found at Oseberg (which is also thought to be a sprang loom and possible the item that the famous Oseberg tapestries were woven on). Loom is pictured to the left.
Recently while cleaning I discovered a now unused stand that held wooden TV trays. I have repurposed it as a sprang frame/two beam loom, and figured I would play around with weaving a headcovering vertically.
I am more than pleased that my theories seem to be working out!
To get the warp yarn to space fairly evenly with little fiddling, I oped to wrap the warp around the beam an extra pass before stretching it down to the next beam. I did half my test warp in this manner, and half with two wraps between each vertical warp yarn. (A weaving comb would work to space for a thicker warp, but you would have to have an exceptionally fine comb for this and take care with it to not damage the fine warp yarn.)
In practice, it does very well at setting the spacing AND the additional wraps will allow me extra yarn at the ends to twist the fringe that will have the little looped ends that so many extant examples have. I absolutely cannot wait to try weaving some items on this loom now!
I will add string heddles and a heddle rod when I warp a full width piece (tonight I used a bone folder as both a pick up stick and weaving sword). I am quite excited and look forward to more work like this.
If you are interested in the headcoverings from Dublin, or Viking Era weaving in general, I cannot recommend Heckett's book enough. It is an amazing resource and has very, very detailed information about each item (thread counts, thread sizes, color, etc.). http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/viking-age-headcoverings-from-dublin.html
I have made some updates to my Viking Textiles - A Deeper Look at Plaids, Stripes and Checks article. Added in a bit more information I got about several pieces, as well as some possible weaving drafts of those for which I did not have images.
Additionally, there is now a downloadable PDF at the end of the document that can be printed out to give a a rough sense of the scale for these plaids (since all monitors will show items differently, and many of the photos from the academic works are enlarged already).
Last year around this time I was working on weaving lightweight wool scarves based on those from Viking Age Dublin. I fashioned two of them on a rigid heddle loom with two shafts. The first is the one I often wear, and the second is nearly identical except that I worked to get the weaving more even and correct the amount of draw-in I had by the end of the piece.
I do not, however, often make The Thing just to have and then be done with The Thing for good. The first is always an exploration and a learning experience. Each further iteration is either and improvement on my technique or a deeper exploration into a period practice.
Tonight I started sampling an even more fine wool single on my table loom. Eventually I will weave a veil of this type of cloth. After that, I plan to use an old TV tray stand I found and convert it to an Oseberg style loom an weave another cap or scarf on using a loom that functions as one did in period. Finally, sometime down the road, the plan is to spin my own yarn to weave one. I look forward to each step in this process.
The original wool scarves that I did have been written up here. http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/dublin-scarf-finished
Because it is shopping season, and also because the new year approaches and many of us start to thing of the projects the next year will bring, I thought I would take the time right now to share some of my favorite fibers and yarn that work really well for SCA projects.
While I definitely recommend the experience of working with raw wool and hand processing it, we often do not have time for that, and it can be very difficult for beginners. There is one processed wool roving/top that I have regularly spin and that I recommend to spinners of any level. That wool is naturally colored Shetland roving that you can buy from several vendors at Pennsic, including Brush Creek Woolworks and Minerva's Spindle. This stuff drafts and spins very well. It has lots of loft so you can make a thick wooly yarn, or you can spin it out exceptionally fine on Viking period spindles.
Yarn for Weaving
Harrisville Shetland Yarns
Harrisville makes two weights of Shetland wool yarn. The Highland is heavier, and for SCA purposes I would reserve it for cloaks or functional textiles (or for something where you want a bit more warmth or bulk). The Shetland yarn is a great weight for functional textiles (woven mittens, pouches, mats, possibly hoods or something like that). I highly, and I mean HIGHLY, recommend this yarn purchased as UNWASHED cones for new weavers. The unwashed yarn is smooth during weaving, which means the threads are less likely to hang up on their neighbors (which gives you a clean shed). Both weights work exceptionally well in rigid heddle looms and I have crafted many projects from this wool. The Shetland can be used for garments, but the resulting item would be much heavier, and have a much lower threadcount, than most of what we see in finds from the Viking era.
Another way to use this yarn as as an easy to manage warp for your own handspun weft.
My favorite vendor for hits is Halcyon Yarn. https://halcyonyarn.com/yarn/009/harrisville-shetland-yarn-_-unwashed-cones
EPiC Wool Yarn
I discovered this yarn early last year and fell in love. The problem is that the company disappeared before I could order enough to do a project with it. Well, we are lucky that Timeless Textiles have purchased the business and are offering this amazing yarn again.
This two-ply lightweight yarn is a true worsted wool. It is both smooth and strong and weaves very easily. It worked well at a sett of 20 for tabby on the rigid heddle loom when I sampled (and made a thick, almost canvas-like cloth at 25 for tabby). I also know many people who love this particular yarn for tablet weaving.
You can get more information in the company's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/timeless.textiles.sb2ollc/?fref=ts
Bockens and Borgs make wonderful yarns that are exceptional for weaving. They come in array of rich colors and can be worked into a number of items for reenacting use (including garments). The one issue you can run into is that often it can be difficult to get a large number of skeins on very short notice. It is good to plan larger projects well in advance so that there is time to get it from Sweden if need be.
Borgs 6/1 Faro wool yarn is a single ply yarn that works well at a sett of 20 or slightly higher for a twill. This is the yarn I used as the warp in my apron dress and I have played with it also as a brocading weft for tablet weaving. It is also often used as a tapestry wool. It can be a little sticky as warp, but I still consider it easy to use.
Borgs 20/2 Tuna wool yarn is both fine and strong. It is not sticky and works well for both tablet weaving and traditional weaving. I have only sampled with it (and used it for tablet weaving) but it would make a lovely fabric. This might be a good option for garment yarn for those who feel they are not quite ready to try weaving with singles.
Bockens 8/2 Mobelatta is very strong and has a bit of a sheen. It is great for functional textiles that will have a lot of wear and would also likely make a wonderful shawl or outer garment.
You can find these yarns at the following vendors (I use all of them and they are great):
Vavstuga Weaving School: http://vavstuga.com/
Glimakra USA (Borgs only): http://glimakrausa.com/
Loan Star Loom Room: http://www.lonestarloomroom.com
Even with amazing yarns such as those I listed above, it can still be very difficult to find the correct yarns for imitating historic textiles. Most garments in the Viking era were woven from singles. Faro yarn is nice, but still thicker than much of what was used at the time. Vendors who carry mill ends from the commercial weaving industry give us incredible access to exceptionally fine yarns. The only warning I have with these sources is that they often have only what they have and will not get more in stock of an item. I suggest ordering extra in the event you discover you need more later.
The weft in my handwoven aprondress was a large cone of mill end wool yarn that was gifted to me by a friend. (It is the same wool I used for my Dublin scarves.)
I have resourced these types of wool from two sources. One is WEBS (http://www.yarn.com/mill-end-weaving-yarns/). This vendor does not always stock yarns that meet our needs, but I purchased some there this fall that is exceptionally nice and will work very well for garments. Look at the Yorkshire 30s yarn if it is still there (and then be in awe of the price, it is a fantastic deal).
The other resource that I positively love is ColourMart in the UK. This vendor carries a massive supply of yarn including some incredibly fine wools (and silks as well). I highly recommend getting on the email list to be advised of sales. And, if you are purchasing a large amount of yarn for weaving garments, make sure you change the items to larger cones at check-out, as you will save your self a good deal of money. I have loved every yarn I have gotten there (especially the 1/13 wool and the 1/20 Merino/Cashmere). http://www.colourmart2.com/products/rootProducts.php
Mistress Oda Wlslagre dicta Widoeghe from Atlantia recently added a post to her blog (Medieval Threads) with tips about spinning singles for weaving. It is a very informative post (especially if you are new to spinning or weaving) so I am sharing it here. (She also has lots of other goodies on her site and in her documentation, so definitely worth checking it all out!)
Click her banner below to go to the post!
I am working on a cloak for a dear friend's impending elevation, so my own projects are on hold. That, however, does not stop me from digging into research! I have been sitting on a pile of research I did this summer on a particular type of weaving found at Oseberg and had planned to sort through it after I could weave up a nice sample. Because that is unlikely to happen soon due to other items, I have put compiling my notes on hold. When someone asked just recently about those items on an online forum, it occurred to me that I do not have to wait until my own project is complete before I can put what I discovered out there. Hopefully I will get this written up in the next week or two so that perhaps someone else can make use of it!
Beyond that, I want to share two great resources that I have come across. The first is the Norwegian Textile Newsletter. In addition to articles and projects using Scandinavian weaving techniques, there are articles on things like wool sails, warp weighted looms and other things of interest to reenactors: http://norwegiantextileletter.com/archives/
The next is the series of Viking publications which have articles covering pretty much every topic: https://www.duo.uio.no/handle/10852/37522
I dance, race cars, play video games and am on a fantastic journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, dance and food.
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
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