Saturday, April 12, 2014

Viking Coat/Kaftan Project

Kasha definitely tell you when she wants attention!

I grew up in Oregon, and we went camping on Mt. Hood almost every summer. Those experiences taught me the importance of layers, and planning for unexpected weather when there's only a thin tent wall between you and the elements. 

After talking with other local SCAdians about the weather's mood swings during previous Gulf Wars, we decided to try to get some outerwear made up before we headed that way. My mother was a lifesaver, diving into the Pendleton Wool Outlet in Washington and sending us fabric so I could make one for each of us.

I don't know if I procrastinated too much, or just had too much other prep on my mind, but these became some of the last projects I... well, completed is a little too generous. They're gorgeous and totally wearable, but I still need to finish the inner seams. 

Now, these aren't really anything terribly concrete. We know so little about Viking clothing, it's kind of laughable! I've seen other SCAdians and Viking enthusiasts with these coats before, so I decided to run with it, even though I don't have much at all in the way of documentation. I took a couple notes, which you can see on the drawn plan.

This is the only mid-project photo I took, between getting the foundation built and adding the contrasting wool and trim. The purple accent wool is home-dyed. It was an experiment, and will be interesting to watch as I continue to wear and enjoy this garment.

I wanted to take the picture with the brooch meant to hold the edges together, but it was just too shiny and indistinct. Jake gave me a bronze brooch for Christmas a couple years ago, but age had not been kind to it. Raymond's Quiet Press was at Gulf Wars, so I was able to give it back to them for silver-plating.

That was an awesomely spent $10! When it was mailed back, the brooch was a stark silver. I wanted it to have a more antiqued silver look, so I employed a trick I learned while volunteering at Troll during Gulf Wars. It was a slow afternoon at gate, and our site tokens were all the same color. You couldn't see any of the gorgeous details, so we did what crafty people do when we get bored: experiment. We had sharpies and there were paper towels in the bathroom. Add in a little bottle of Purell one good lady had in her purse, and we were in business!

Now, if my brooch had really been silver, I would never have tried this, but the silver-plated bronze took to it gorgeously. I covered the entire front with a black sharpie, and make sure to get it into all the crevices. After that, I used rubbing alcohol to remove the sharpie marks from the top of the design.
The finished product. I thought it would look better, but I had absolutely no idea it would look this fabulous! Wow!

Here's the coat laid out. You can see the inner seams that still need love, but the accent wool has been added and the trim sewn on. Actually, something happened that I wasn't originally planning on: the smooth curve opposite the tips opposite the brooches. I knew it would be difficult to curve the trip so sharply, and a slip while laying out the trim ended up being the perfect solution.

And, finally, you can see the coat on me. I do need to take it in, but that may be a project for next fall. I have a stack of projects waiting for me, and it's starting to get too warm to even wear it. But, despite all that, I do love it. It reminds me of both my mom and my husband, and is so warm it's like a hug in and of itself.

Linen Underdress with Handwoven Trim

Detail of hand-sewn neckline, sleeves, and hand-woven trim.

I've been playing with a rigid heddle box loom for a couple of months now, and figured it was well passed time to start putting some of the trim I made on my garb.

I finished this underdress before the Gulf Wars event, but things got kind of crazy afterwards, with our school announcing that it would be moving. It's been a little bit of an adjustment, but a productive one. It's also meant that my workload has precluded as much writing and sewing as I would like.

The (Saturday!) training I had to attend this morning let us out early, so while the wool for another project (a bartered apron dress) is drying I thought it would be a good time to put some thoughts down about a couple previous projects.

Lately, I've been having sour luck with underdresses. It's the strangest thing, but I keep messing them up in one way or another. Probably too much experimenting. But on to the underdress! I used a linen blend from JoAnn and used a simple long tunic pattern with slightly inset sleeves.
I didn't take pictures while I was weaving the trim for this underdress, so here's a picture of another project on my loom. I have fallen in love with this pattern generator, and it has really been helping me design different patterns for my trim.
Before I started cutting the pattern I was played with fabric dye again, but unfortunately I strayed from the RIT that has treated me so well to something that had a pretty pine cone on it that looked just perfect. It didn't turn out that way, so I tried to undo the damage with some dye remover. That's what led to the interesting shade that my underdress now sports.
Another pre-cursor to scissors actually hitting the linen! This is the finished trim, shown on top of the fabric I was using to make my sleeve patterns. I experimented with a couple different trim patterns, but I seem to have become obsessed with little chains... especially in 5/2 cotton pearle copper! 
I have also developed a hatred of underarm sleeve gores that is so intense it is nearly a living thing, so I decided to revise my sleeve pattern for inset sleeves. I spent a lot of quality time with both sleeves and safety-pins. By making a false seam with the safety pins, I could pull the sleeves on and off as needed, adjusting the positions of the safety pins until the fit was perfect.

You can't tell from this picture, but I cheated a little. I wanted a tight-fitting rolled hem, so I actually used my sewing machine to zig-zag the neckline's edges. That allowed me to keep the roll teeny-tiny without worrying about unraveling. I absolutely love the effect!
And finally, just in case you're interested, this is the pattern I used to weave the trim. I've already made two different lengths of it - the initial project was three yards long, and then I made another five yards for the bartered apron dress project. I love how simple and yet how nice it looks. At some point I will work up my nerve to start tablet-weaving, but for now I just adore how straightforward it is to have a simple back and forth project like this one.

The final result, finished just in time for Gulf Wars! The outfit camped really well, although I will make a couple changes to the other pieces. I am sad that one of the chains you see here - with the Viking needle case from Raymond's Quiet Press - went walkabout during the event. Hopefully it has a nice, caring new home and didn't end up in a ditch or something.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jake's Hedeby-ish Coat

Both Jake and I absolutely love this garment, but I would like to find a bit more in terms of documentation before I make it again.

I've been eyeing Nille Glaesel's book Viking: Dress, Garment, Clothing for a while now, but there's no way we can afford $150 for a single book, no matter how cool it is. I was cautiously excited when I noticed the $10 Kindle break-out editions of specific garments from the book, but I'd rather just buy the $55 Kindle edition when times are a little less tight.

That being said, the garments were nicely pictured on the cover, so I decided to model his new tunic on the torso design shown for the Viking K Coat with Hedeby Sleeves

I went looking for some more concrete resources, and landed on Þóra Sharptooth's "Viking Tunic Constrution" which offers a lovely illustration and states: "Also found at Hedeby is late tenth- or early eleventh-century evidence for a short bathrobe-style jacket with overlapping front panels. Similar garments are known from earlier Saxon graves on the Continent and believed by some to have had some military or ritual significance (Owen-Crocker 1986, 114-115); they are also depicted in Migration Era artwork such as the Sutton Hoo helmet plates..."

But that didn't offer quite as much fullness as I wanted, so I kept looking for other examples.

On pg. 116 of Thor Ewing's Viking Clothing, there's an illustration of what he describes as a coat. He says it comes from a helmet plaque found in Vendel, Sweden. There's not much detail, but it does show a nice overlap with some kind of decoration.

At this point I felt like I had enough to start with. I went back to my good 'ol reliable Bocksten Bog format and then started fiddling around with the diagonal cut.

I had a couple irregular pieces of the wool I wanted to use, so I had to be a little creative in how I planned to cut it. This was the plan before I had him try on the muslin, which helped me decide to increase the depth of the diagonal sides.

Here's the finished tunic laid out. The trim was as close as I could get commercially to something inkle or tablet-woven, but it does make a good impression. The blue wool was left over from my apron dress, and had to be pieced together.
A close-up of the top and sleeves. While I did do the hidden seams on the machine, all top-stitching is by hand. I flat-felled where I could, but for the most part I used the style Østergård describes on pg. 99 of Woven Into The Earth
I may replace the trim later with something more authentic, but this is working for now. In this image you can see both the stitching holding down the blue accent and the double row of stitching holding the trim in place.
From here, you can see inside both sleeves to how I sewed down the seam allowance. Except for the basic line stitch on the sleeve ends, it's pretty much all the same stitch. What can I say? If it works!

Because we are both so partial to this cut on him, I am going to keep looking for better documentation. But for now, Jake has some great threads to wear to events!


Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, Inc. 2006. Pg. 116.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Pg. 99.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn. "Viking Tunic Construction." Þóra Sharptooth's Resources for the Re-enactor. 1997. <> 5 January 2014.

Pleated Viking Underdress - What Not to Do!

Okay, let's just establish this from the get-go: This was an interesting experiment that turned out poorly. I'm mostly posting this to a) record how I screwed it up and b) get the help of others in problem-solving this garment. With that out of the way, let's focus on what happened:

Ever since I first read Inga Hägg's writing about the Birka finds, I have been curious about the pleated linen garment she illustrated and described. Preserved by corroding metal in graves, small scraps of a finely pleated garment appear to be part of a larger underdress.

Now, I've seen a couple - not many - examples of pleated underdresses, but they always felt a little shapeless to me, and even a little wasteful when it came to yardage. I also hated the necklines.

Geijer's image with my brooches to show scale.
To the left is a picture of my brooches next to one of Agnes Geijer's images from the same book, to give you an idea of the scale. This was a very, very tight pleat.

But I was feeling a wee bit controlling, and felt the need to try to find something that would both create this effect and have some kind of staying power.

My mind immediately went back to something I'd seen when looking at period stitch types. On page 100 of Østergård's Woven into the Earth, she describes and illustrates stitched pleats, makes connections to the Birka finds, and goes on to describe them in further detail. Apparently seeing them illustrated in larger than real size (the text says they were 4-5 millimeters wide but they're shown as nearly a centimeter) caused some kind of misfire in my brain, because I was off and running with scissors in the wrong direction.

I decided to use it as an inspiration and do some experimenting. I cut the rest of the pattern out as normal, with the back being my usual underdress width and the arms, skirt gores, and underarm gores as usual. The front, however, I cut using the entire width of the fabric.

Here's my plan: I found the center point, marked room for the keyhole neckline to come, and then proceeded to gather in small pleats at each shoulder until the front was the same width as the back piece.

I went in half inches, pinching up and pinning down a half inch every half inch. I tried to go smaller, but it wasn't enough to consistently hide the stitching under the pleats.
I sewed down the first 10cm of each pleat - I figured that would be enough to hold the shape but also allow me to adjust the rest of the pleats as needed.

And once they were all sewn down, I ironed them into submission.

Looking at it now, it just doesn't produce the same effect as the Birka examples. The pleats are way too big, and the way they shift around on me is just horrible. I end up with big bunches under the arms and they travel in highly unfortunate ways.

The keyhole neckline has also become overwhelmed by the amount of fabric and doesn't sit right. I ended up tucking the sides underneath so I didn't feel so smothered, and it looks like more of a v-neck now.

I don't want to waste the fabric, so at this point, I think I'm going to rip out the shoulders and just gather the excess fabric in as small as possible. I'll finish the seam, wash it, then wring it out and allow it to dry in a bundle like that.

I'm not looking forward to ripping out all those seams!

Documentation... which I'll pay a lot closer attention to next time:

Geijer, Agnes. "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983. Pg. 80-99.

Hägg, Inga. "Viking Women's Dress at Birka: A Reconstruction by Archeological Methods." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983. Pg. 316-350.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Pg. 100.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mom's Age of Exploration Series, Renaissance Male

My mother is a truly excellent teacher, and while she battles to keep Social Studies in the curriculum she has fantastic ways of getting her students interested in and curious about history. As part of that, she has asked me to help her with a two-week wardrobe of clothing that would have been worn during the Viking era and the Age of Exploration.

She already has garb for a Viking woman and a Renaissance Lady, so I decided to start with a male Renaissance look for her. I grabbed a couple commercial patterns, but did refer to Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, c. 1560-1620 for inspiration.

Patterns used:
  • Simplicity #4059: Renaissance Costume Collection (for doublet and shirt)
  • Butterick #3072: Historical Costume (for pants)

When I started cutting out the pattern, I realized that the shirt was actually missing the collar pattern piece, and I was surprised as all get out when the people at Simplicity actually 1) responded to my email and 2) sent me a copy of the missing piece.

The first part of the project actually started with Mom and Nancy back home in Washington - apparently with the aid of much laughter they were able to make and send me a form. A couple pillow sacrifices later, and I now have a duct-tape mini-Mommy! It's good for hugs when I'm especially missing her.
Since she will be teaching in this, I decided to make this shirt collar as the pattern directed, instead of doing a separate ruff. I did add a bit more lace (okay, about double) what the pattern called for, but it's nice and fluffy!
Here's a close-up of one of the sleeves. I've tried to baste and gather before, like the pattern called for, but I always end up ripping it out and then pinning things in anyway. I think I have fabric control issues.
The finished shirt, complete with some lovely pewter buttons to close the sleeves. I'm actually quite impressed with how it turned out. I flat felled seams where I could, for extra stability and durability, and I think this is going to work well for her!
Next came the doublet. I did have to raise the neckline and add a collar for authenticity sake, and the duct-tape Mommy was invaluable for this. I actually ended up using the shirt collar as the basis for the doublet collar, and it worked very well. It allows the lace to show over the edge nicely.
I hand-sewed a silver trim onto the collar and all the tabs at the bottom. It took a little while, but I really liked the effect.
And, finally, we get to see the two pieces together!
Close-up of the tabs and sleeve. I went back, around, and sideways about eyelets vs. buttons before finally deciding on the less authentic eyelets.

Because she is not here to be fitted, we decided the eyelets would be more versatile. The duct-tape Mommy is great, but a lot more forgiving (and pliable) than a real person with flesh and bones.

At this point I was all done - except for the pants. For the life of me I couldn't find the Simplicity pattern (it fell behind the scrapbook tote) so I fell back on the Butterick pattern, which was eminently easier. I made them in a pretty green corduroy, but forgot to take pictures before I sent it off to Mom. Hopefully I can update with some pictures of her in the garb once it arrives.

All in all, I'm quite happy with how this project turned out, and I just hope Mom is going to feel the same way! We'll know in a couple days when it arrives in Washington!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Viking-Era Silk Cap Reconstruction

I completed this project a couple years ago, but it came back to mind recently when I started gathering pieces and research for my mother's Age of Exploration costume series. I wore it once, as a student teacher, when I was going over Beowulf with my students but I haven't worn it since. Hopefully Mom will get a lot more use out of it!

Extant Cap at the Museum of York in England

When I was initially getting into Viking costume, I remembered seeing an extant cap when I was studying abroad in London. I had taken the train to York for the weekend to see the Jorvik Viking Museum and be-bopped into a couple other museums along the way. An email to the museum resulted in a reply with these specifications:

"Viking cap, tabby weave. Simple hood-shaped cap, fashioned from a single rectangle of plain-woven, hand-spun, undyed silk, shaped by a centre-back seam, which ran on the straight grain for [approximately] 17.5cm from the lower (neck) edge, curved over the back of the head and terminated as a flattened tapering dart, the point of the dart being approximately 5cm from the face-framing front edge. 

The straight edges of the seam are neatened with double hems, 1.5mm wide, which had been turned to the underside and hemmed from left to right, before the seam was closed. Where the seam was curved and on the bias (and now open) the turnings are cut roughly , unfinished at the edges, and of uneven width. 

The seam had been closed with neat, fine oversewing, worked on the outside of the cap with finely-spun silk thread. The stitching appears to have been started at the point of the dart, and continued to the lower edge, where the right-hand side is 1cm longer than the left. On the inside, needle holes and impressions of stitches show that the dart had been pressed towards the right-hands side, and hemmed flat, along the fold.

The cap is cut with a selvedge edge [framing] the face. This and the two ends of the rectangle which for the lower edge of the cap had been neatened with exceptionally fine roll hems. The remains of two groups of stitches, close to the front edge, at each side of the cap, from which sharp creases radiate, probably indicate the former position for ties for fastening the cap closely around the head. Thread Count 66 end per inch warp, 51 picks per inch weft. Two prominent holes at the back were probably caused by friction during normal use."

He was also kind enough to include another image of the cap:

Courtesy of the Museum of York

At the time, I couldn't quite afford undyed silk, so I used some white linen left over from another project. I pulled back out my hand-sewing reference and tried to come as close as possible to the measurements as I could. I don't remember where the straps came from - I was either inspired by another reconstruction or by my inability to keep hats on. It was probably a combination!*

Whole cap, open to show hem-stitch and strap attachment.

The curved dart, from inside.

The curved dart, from outside.

Overall, there are several changes I'll make before I attempt this again: 
  • Use the undyed silk the original is constructed from, and make sure to get a large enough piece that I can use the selvedge to frame the face, like the original. The piece of linen I started with was 28" by 10", so in the future I will get a 23" by 8-1/2" piece with selvedge, which factors in the next note: 
  • Shorten the length to match the proportions of the original - it's a bit long right now, and drags too much on my shoulders. The original only comes about an inch below the glass model's jawline, so my next attempt will be about 2" shorter. 
  • Leave the strap off!

Altogether this was more of a muslin than a finished piece but I've learned some important things from it that I will use in the future.

*Update: I was re-reading some of my materials, and I remembered where the strap came from: Compleat Anachronist #59: Women's Garb in Northern Europe, 450-1000 C.E. on pg. 48.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Truly Victorian 102: Victorian Chemise

Like the Christmas cloaks for my godsons, this also represents me playing a bit of catch-up. I think I finished this project over winter vacation. I absolutely hated the last chemise pattern I attempted, but I was buoyed to try the chemise in Truly Victorian #102 both by all the positive reviews and by another blogger's wonderful attempt: Cargo Cult Craft.

I love the linen she used, but I'm not ready to head straight for it - I'm making this initial one out of a nice cotton fabric. There's a lot less guilt in that direction, especially if something goes wrong!

Mei-Mei photo-bomb
On to the construction! One thing I really appreciate about Truly Victorian's patterns is that they are heavy-weight paper and much more durable than the flimsy tissue most commercial patterns come on.

They do sometimes lack detail in their directions, but between other costumers' blogs, trial and error, and even emailing the company you can usually work through it. That won't be a problem here, though - this is a four-piece pattern!

The "Grr!" Moment
Once I cut it out and started construction, I did find one significant problem with the pattern. The directions only list 1-1/2 yards of insertion lace for the neckline for ALL pattern sizes. Let's be honest here - a teenager with a 30" bust is not going to need as much as a lady with a 56" bust! I ended up being 7-1/2" too short. I did email the maker, so hopefully that will be fixed in the future.

I forgot to take more pictures during the process, sorry! Here you can see a shoulder detail. I love the way the insertion lace looks, but when I make this out of linen I think I will scrap the arm lace and the button and just go for the simple sleeve. Objectively, the button is a good idea for neckline adjustment, but in practice it just adds bulk and takes away from the already narrow armhole.
 While not as big of an issue as the insertion lace, the pattern did omit the length required for the hem lace. I did a rough measure of the pattern hem and estimated 3 yards, which was just about right. If I remember correctly, I had a little bit of wiggle room, but I can always find uses for extra notions!
This is a shot you will almost never see from me - the inside of the garment. I used flat-felled seams whenever possible, and used a really, really narrow zig-zag to finish up the spots where it wouldn't work. I'm actually proud of how neat and clean it looks.
From start to finish, this took two days. It would have been one, but I had to send the husband back out for another length of insertion lace because of the mis-print.

It did turn out a little see-through - hence the hanger instead of a model! The length is wonderful, the neckline adjusts perfectly to hide behind different bodice heights, and it's just plain cute!

I am certainly going to make this one in a lightweight linen. Keep your eyes peeled for the project!