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