Then we moved to the west side of the river and I decided to check out the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. Reik Felag sets up a Viking trading village for the weekend of the festival and I got to see the group in action. My first email about joining vanished into the aether, and then I forgot to follow up, so I ended up not joining until this spring, shortly before this year's Midsummer Festival.
That gave me enough to put together my first Viking outfit with the basics. I made a shift/underdress and a smokkr/apron dress, found a pair of leather shoes that looked vaguely right, had a bit of an adventure sewing a leather belt pouch out of scrap leather, wove a belt, and hemmed a chunk of linen gauze for a head covering. And I had a blast.
|Nerdery to the max!|
I started with a Skjoldehamn hood. The hood is based on one found on a body that was excavated from Skjold Harbour in Norway in 1936. The body and clothing were eventually dated to the late 11th century. The person was thought to be a man at first, but later tests suggest that they may have been a woman (though naturally this is not conclusive).
The Skjoldehamn hood and variations on it are a popular clothing item for Viking-era reenactors. It's a simple sewing project that lends itself well to showing off one's embroidery skills. While the original only had, so far as they can tell, small amounts of simple embroidery, this hasn't really stopped people from borrowing motifs from other Viking pieces and decorating their hoods with them. I chose to go simple, as my embroidery skills are just basic right now.
The hood itself is fairly simple in its construction - you need a long rectangle and a couple of squares and the seams are easy to work. I used a green wool and then lined it with natural-coloured linen. I whip-stitched around the hood opening and the hem, which follows what the original had. I used an arrowhead stitch in a mustard-yellow wool along the seams to both decorate and reinforce.
After that, I tweaked my shift a bit by adding some embroidery around the neckline and the cuffs. I didn't do much there because it's a very basic tunic and I plan to sew another one at some point that'll be made out of higher-quality material. I thought about weaving up some trim on my inkle loom but decided against it since I didn't want that much bulk around the neckline and the cuffs. I'm going to do some inkle-weaving to sew around the top of my apron dress, though.
The last thing I've made recently is a Jorvik cap. This is based on a find from Jorvik (York) of a women's cap. The original was silk; I used linen as I couldn't track down easily accessible and affordable tabby-woven silk. The character I'm developing, Embla, is probably going to be based more in Sweden, a little earlier than the cap is dated to, but I needed something that stays on my head better than the wrap I improvised for Midsummer. Embla is a volva-in-training, a wisewoman, and as such she may not have worn anything like this. It's hard to say - we don't know if pre-Christian Norsewomen wore head coverings. It was common for Christian women to cover their heads, for both religious and practical reasons, but since clothing tends to rot away very quickly, the pre-Christian Vikings didn't leave much in the way of writings, and the sagas only mention clothing occaionally, we don't have enough archaeological finds or written sources to tell us whether or not Viking women covered their heads, let alone how they did. Extrapolating based on contemporary or near contemporary sources from neighbouring cultures is the best we can do for now. Those give us a few options for women's head coverings. The wrap I made for Midsummer (top picture) was one possibility. This cap is another.
So I hand-sewed this whole thing, and then embroidered around the edge with a herringbone stitch using some handspun silk. It's a bit slubby, which I liked, and the whole thing turned out well. It also stays on and doesn't slip off easily.