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.

Update 6/10/14:

I ripped out the shoulders and gathered the fabric like I mentioned, but it just wasn't what I was looking for. During my one attempt to wear it, the fabric kept bunching up under my arms, the neckline kept losing shape, and overall it looked just awful!

Out of frustration more than anything, I decided to experiment with a little purple dye. It fixed nothing, and the color just wasn't right for me.

Finally, I decided to undo the shoulders - again! - remove the neckline, and chop the extra fabric out of the middle. There was so much of a difference between the front panel and the back panel that I was basically able to start fresh with the front piece. It allowed me to fix the troublesome neckline and to use the extra fabric for gores.

But it was still a too-bright purple for my purposes. Two boxes of RIT dye remover brought it back to a pale pink, and a bottle of Sunshine Orange RIT dye transformed it into a lovely turmeric-inspired color with white stitching accents.

I am now much, much happier with this underdress! It isn't pleated, but at least now it's something usable, and perfect with my summer apron dress!

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!