Thursday, 16 January 2014

Jorvik Hood or Cap

Making a hood (sometimes called a cap, I'm including both in the hope that people will find this post searching for either) has long been a a desire of mine. I have very long hair which refuses to be contained by strips of tablet weaving or wrapping a cloth around it in almost any fashion. I was hoping that with this I would be able to keep my hair out of my face at events and maybe keep my ears cosy too.

I was lucky enough to have a piece of cloth woven for me to make this. There is a separate blog post here about the fabric if you want to get in depth about it.
Tied behind the ears which I find most comfortable.

Techniques involved: Sewing.
Materials used: Handwoven 100% wool fabric, wool thread, linen fabric, linen thread.

Tools used: Scissors, needles.

References and construction: There have not been an enormous amount of finds of headwear from the era I'm most interested in (late 9th century). Of the cap sort such as this, there are two main types usually referred to as Dublin and Jorvik respectively. Although constructed similarly, there are some key differences. In Dublin the caps were made of wool and in Jorvik they were made of silk. Jorvik is geographically closer to my 9th century home so I made the decision to go for a Jorvik style cap.

Let it be noted that I used woollen fabric because Toby hasn't had a crack at weaving silk yet. I was getting a beautiful, small piece of close woven to a period design and wanted to use it in a project that would show it off. Where better place than on my head? So I confess that I could have upped the authenticity of this project hugely by changing the fabric but beyond that I have done my best to use the archaeological evidence as my guide. I also couldn't find much information about colour in these silk caps so chose a colour which was definitely available from a widely used dye stuff (woad).

All of the information I have since gleaned about the caps has been from another York Archaeological Trust publication, Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate by Penelope Walton. I really can't recommend their publications enough.

This document has a diagram of an almost complete silk hood which I'm going to reproduce here because it is so incredibly awesome. Enormous thanks to YAT for making these incredible resources available to us.

It's essentially a pattern for making the thing and most importantly it shows you that nearly all of the modern Jorvik hoods that you see pictures of online are wrong in one important way - they are too big. This cap was narrow and short. Having followed these dimensions as closely as I could (except in the tie placement, more on that in a moment) the style of cap is quite different from the more hood-like ones you see a lot online. For a good visual guide to the sizes of caps which have been found there is an interesting diagram here.

Now that I've made one I can also fully appreciate the techniques used to construct it. If I had been using silk I would have wanted all the raw edges dealt with first too, so rolling each edge of the rectangle you start with and stitching it down takes care of that. Then fold it in half and add a back seam and dart, but don't cut off the excess fabric in the dart. In something fine like silk this would fold neatly to the side and not get in your way, and it saves you risking sewing a fiddly curved seam in silk and then having the raw edges to deal with.

The only real difference in construction between this and a Dublin cap is that on those the dart flap is on the outside and not the inside. In the example from York above the dart fabric has later been cut off to repair a hole in the cap. Human touches like this are one of the things I love most about re-enacting.

Once the hood is constructed it's time to add the ties. Although none survives we can surmise that there were ties  through the presence of stitching half way down the front edges of the cap. The stitches on the Jorvik find above were silk and look from the diagram like cross stitches. Underneath there are a few trapped vegetable fibres believed to be linen. I constructed linen ties out of some unbleached linen I have used in my kit elsewhere but decided to add a bit of detail with a contrasting herringbone stitch along the tie. There's no evidence for this anywhere (although it is an authentic seam treatment), I just fancied it.

The decorative stitching on the ties.

I tried the ties in the same place as the stitch holes on the cap find but they didn't sit right with my ears when I tried to tie them back. By moving them an inch downwards they fitted my face much better. This is one of those moments as a re-enactor where you have to make a judgement call.  A lot of caps I've seen online have the ties even lower than this, or even on the bottom corner. By lowering them slightly I felt like I had personalised the cap to me without going to far from the evidence. Without a greater sample of caps to look at we have no idea whether the ties were always in the same place or not.

The completed hood in profile.
Queries: How was it worn? No one knows, but the reference to the creases leading to the ties gives some clue. I have tried tying it in about 6 different ways so far and I cannot get the fabric to crease in the way that the original was.
Summary: Having reconciled myself with using a fabric made of the wrong fibre, I think that the rest of this cap is one of my well-researched bits of kit yet. It helps that a near complete one was found and I got my hands on a brilliant diagram of it. If only there were more complete textile finds like this!

The loveliest thing about this project has been the growing understanding of why they were constructed as they were. A good sense of reconnection with our ancestors is something I think that all re-enactors are looking for and making the same object with a very precious (to me) fabric gave me great respect for the techniques of the seamstress who made the cap found in York.

I'm looking forward to making another of these in silk one day (if I can get some woven for me!).

Bone Pins

These two pins were made more for practice in bone carving than anything else, but they are also lovely objects which have received some use, and they are both relatively well backed up by finds. The points are sharp enough to push through the weave in the fabric without damaging the threads, but alas these two examples are too short to be usefully used as hair pins. 

Bone pin A
Bone pin B

Techniques involved: boneworking
Materials used: bone (I'm unsure what kind), leather thong

Tools used: Dremel, junior hacksaw, files

References: Pin A is directly based on a pin found in York. I drew a rough picture of it when I visited the Jorvik Viking Centre, and decided to make it a while later. I hadn't written down the scale so my version may not bear any relation size-wise, but it is not a bad match as far as the shape goes. 

Pin B is based on lots of different pins which I've seen online and in books. Some are decorated and some not, but they all have this triangular flat section at the top. A particularly fancy example is held at the British Museum, but mine is off a much simpler form. The hacksaw blade decorations are reminiscent of the pin which pin A is based on, and other objects which I saw when I visited York.

Queries: My version of the thong closure might not be accurate, but it does work well with the holes which are found in lots of these pins. To my knowledge remains of thong or braid haven't been found with these pins, so we may never know how they were used.
Summary: These objects are well backed up by finds and are common throughout Britain and Scandinavia throughout the Viking era.

Fabric based on Jorvik 1336

Although I didn't weave this fabric, I wanted to include a write-up of it's making in order to add to the body of knowledge about it on the internet. The weaver, Toby, very kindly made a video explaining a little about it which you can find here.

Techniques involved: Weaving on a 4 shaft loom.
Materials used: Wool thread.

Tools used: 4-shaft table loom.

References: I saw a picture of a beautiful fabric here whilst wandering around the internet. This page is by Carolyn Priest-Dorman and has a great write-up of the research into the fabric and the practicalities of weaving it. 

The find is called Jorvik 1336 and can be read about in the York Archaeological Trust publication, Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate by Penelope Walton. As Priest-Dorman mentions, there is a weaving draft included but it's actually simpler to weave if you turn the diagram on it's side. We have no way of knowing which thread was warp and weft in this fabric but in order to weave it on a four shaft loom Toby followed Priest-Dorman's advice.

The original was a vegetable fibre - most likely linen - and was found with some other small pieces of fabric. honeycomb weave structure is not widely known amongst Viking finds, though there have been others, so this was an unusual bit of fabric. Walton has this to say about it's origin:
Since several other patterned linens, particularly weaves based on the same 2/1 structure (Fig. 172), have been found in the Frankish row-graves of West Germany, the Rhineland seems a possible source for this group of textiles.

The fabric woven for me is most obviously different in that it is wool. This choice was for multiple reasons, including that I had lots of wool thread to hand and also that Toby has experience of weaving wool but hasn't woven linen before.

Queries: This being quite an unusual weave in terms of how often it is found in a 9th/10th century context makes me wonder if there is any likelihood that it was ever woven in wool. There's also the eternal mystery of what this small, carbonised fragment was originally a part of.

Summary: Having fabric of the right structure and quality is something I am really hoping to move my kit towards and this feels like a great first step.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Jorvik Shoes V.1

These shoes were made for someone else, and were my second pair of shoes. Shoes are hard to make, but are one of the things that really makes your kit look good, so it's worth making them (and trying to get better at it). That being said, I haven't made a pair since and so have forgotten everything I learned in the making of these ones.

Techniques involved: leatherworking
Materials used: veg tanned leather (2.5mm or so thick for the upper, soling bends for the soles), veg tanned goat skin, nylon and linen thread

Tools used: clicker's knife, awl, saddler's needles, brute force

References: I got the idea for these having seen someone's nice shoes, but I can't remember whose shoes. Luckily they did tell me that they were based on a find from York, but I didn't refer to any materials published by York Archaeological  Trust when I made them.

Post-making, I got hold of Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York by Quita Mould, Ian Carlisle and Esther Cameron. Their edited description of this shoe is:
One-piece ankle-shoes, fastened with a single toggle and flap (Style 4a1)
Seventeen examples, all from 16–22 Coppergate, had a single, wide flap with a toggle and loop fastening. The uppers were sewn to the soles with either a tunnel-stitched ... or an edge/flesh-stitched seam. 
Shoes fastened with a single flap and toggle are dated to c.930/5–c.975 at York. A single example came from an earlier context dating to mid 9th–late 9th/early 10th century, and another came from a context that extended into the 11th century. Shoes of this style have been found previously at York. Stitching preserved in a shoe found at 5 Coppergate  was of animal fibre, probably wool. Others were found at Hungate and Feasegate.
In the same document, the use of goatskin is discussed. Although it was not widespread, at least one shoe made entirely of goatskin was found which dated to the late ninth or early tenth century.

Queries: None, as this is a well documented item.

Summary: The shoes I made are broadly similar to the ones found in York in design, but differ in some details. My thread for the soles was nylon and not an animal fibre. The stitching on the uppers was all done with linen thread, so they differ there also.

I used a goat skin toggle because the leather was less thick than that I used for the uppers, and thus easier to roll. This use of mixed leathers in one shoe is not one I've found a basis for, though from looking at the shoe it would be hard to spot.

Both the toggle and loop style which I used differ to those on the original shoe, and next time I will copy them as closely as possible instead. I also did decorative stitching to attach the toggle, but didn't whip stitch the edges of the upper.

Although my shoes are superficially similar, they lack some important characteristics which would have made them much more authentic. As we have such detailed evidence for these shoes, next time I will try to make a much closer copy.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Drop Spindle with Bone Whorl

This spindle was made as a gift for a spinner who is just getting into re-enactment. The background is a knitted hat which was also a gift for him, the lucky fellow. 

Techniques involved: boneworking, whittling
Materials used: the ball socket of a cow's thigh bone, 9mm oak dowel

Tools used: Opinel knife, junior hacksaw, drill, files, variety of sandpapers

References: I started with one reference for this, and it's one of those "based on a find" ones. I used the picture on this page to get the idea, and based proportions for the length and diameter on other drop spindles I already have. The spindle on Lodin's page is a bottom whorl, but the recipient prefers top whorl spindles so I made it a top whorl.

I recently downloaded a brilliant text by York Archaeological Trust entitled Textile Production at 16-22 Coppergate by Penelope Walton Rogers. On page 1762 there is a diagram of two bone spindle whorls matching the one on the above page. The most pertinent piece of text relating to these whorls is as follows:
Bone whorls made from cattle femur-heads were used over a wide period of time, but  seem to have been especially common in England in the late Anglo-Saxon and early Anglo-Norman period (e.g.Woodland.1990,217)
Queries: What wood was usually used for the shafts? Were viking spindles usually top or bottom whorls?
Summary: I'm quite chuffed with this spindle, especially as I now have a bit more evidence for it. Apparently it spins well too, and it's already received a lot of use. It also only cost about £2 to make which makes it an even more appealing item to add to your kit.

Naalbinding Socks

These aren't actually my first pair of naalbinded socks, but the first pair were too awful to show you. Naalbinding drives me a bit bonkers, but it's very satisfying when, months later, I actually finish a project. These socks have less give than modern socks but they are pretty comfortable and do keep your feet warm.

Techniques involved: nalbinding (or naalbinding, however you spell it)

Materials used: undyed British wool singles (Sirdar Eco, now discontinued), madder dyed 2-ply wool

Tools used: homemade bone needle

References: The stitch is a basic one which I was taught by my friend Ingibjorg. Going by this website it is called York stitch, which is satisfying as 970AD is only 100 years after the period of my character, and York is geographically closer to my home in the Blackwater Estuary than other naalbinding finds.

Ingibjorg has a section about socks and their construction on her website, which is where I got the idea for the seperately formed circle which is then attached to create the heel. She states that this is a heel-type known in Medieval Uppsala.

She has a write up here of her own socks which also have a madder-dyed band around the top. I freely admit that I refer to her kit and website a lot because I know that she is good at research and has a good analytical approach to interpreting finds, which is something I can't say for myself.

Queries:  Apart from wondering how anyone has the patience for naalbinding, I don't have any major problems with these socks.

Summary: These socks have a reasonable historical grounding, but next time I will try one of the heel constructions known from York.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Why of This Blog

Hello. My name is Dagrun and I'm a ninth-century Dane. Well, I like to imagine that I am.

I've been a re-enactor for 12 years or so and am all about the living history and crafts. In the course of my crafty viking endeavours, I've often found it frustrating looking for information on the internet. You see a great outfit on Pinterest, but after following a series of links all you can find out is that it was "based on a find". But what find? How much of the original item was found? How much of the awesome outfit is conjecture? Enquiring minds need to know.

This blog will hopefully come to feature lots of my kit items, with my research, references and an honest appraisal of the bits I've just added because they look cool, damn it.

I'm really interested in talking to anyone who is likewise trying to navigate the nightmare of historical accuracy, so please feel free to contact me in the comments.

- Dagrun the Determined