Saturday, April 12, 2014

Viking Coat/Kaftan Project

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 used the fabulous Inkle Loom Pattern Generator to help me plan the trim. It's based on a wider project I really liked on Pinterest. I had to leave the cream section in white, as it's not one of the colors in the program. Once the plan was set, I used 3/2 pearle cotton to weave it with a rigid heddle.

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.

Update, 7/23/14: It's Finished!

It's taken over three months, but I have finally finished this project! All seams are now finished by hand, and unless I decide to go crazy and add some sort of embroidery (which is doubtful) then I have sewn my last stitch in it!

 I had to finish this seam a couple times in my head before I actually went and did it. Like the gray apron dress project, I used the technique inspired by Østergård's illustration on pg. 99 and sewed all all the gores down flat.

To the left, you can see the raw edges I started with. When the seam allowances meet in points, those points are left sticking up.

 Here you can see the finished seam, with both gores fully opened and sewn down. This overlap actually lends the seam a lot of both stability and strength.

When the seam is spread open, like the stretch in between both gores, the strength of the seam relies entirely on the stitching between two independent pieces of fabric.

That's a normal, good thing, but since I can be more than a little hard on things, I appreciate some additional durability.

This method gives me that. With the gores sewn like this, it is actually a marriage of the pieces of fabric. If you try to pull the seam apart, you have to overcome two independent lines of stitching as well as the static friction of the overlapping seam allowances.

And, just so you know, I actually had a physics discussion with my husband (a senior engineering student) to make sure I used that term correctly!

And here is the finished underarm gore. Isn't it pretty?!

You can tell the overlapped seams from the others because there's a single line of stitching on one side of the seam line, while the regular seams have stitching on both sides.

This project did take a little more fabric than I intended, so I had to piece the back gore. I'm so glad I planned out how I was going to finish the seams before I started working on them!
This is how it played out, but it's the very bottom of the back of the coat. It's not going to be very visible at all when worn.
Here's a close-up of the same gore. I just absolutely adore this technique, and how neatly and smoothly it leaves the garment!


Baker, Jennifer. "Stitches and Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age/Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections." 2009. <> 11 June 2014.

Glæsel, Nille. Viking: Dress Garment Clothing. Lexington: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

Kenna nic Aherne von Ziemer. "A 9th Century Viking Kaftan." Kenna's Closet.
<> 23 July 2014.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Page 98-99.

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.